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The Faces of Our Future Health Care Providers


HOUSTON—(July 2008)—The minority population continues to grow within our nation and that means patients are more diverse than ever. Through various recruitment and retention programs, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston addresses the need for diversity among our future health care providers.

The goal of increasing diversity among health care students is linked to research showing underserved patients may be better reached by physicians from similar backgrounds. According to a study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, patients who are of the same race as their health care provider report more satisfaction with their physician. The U.S. Department of State says minorities make up 34 percent of the current U.S. population. Together, Texas and California have nearly a third of the nation’s minority populations.

“The disciplines of the UT Health Science Center at Houston are making significant strides to improve services and resources to assist the progress of our students,” says Ronald Johnson, D.D.S, chief academic diversity officer at the UT Health Science Center at Houston. “Several of these activities have resulted in substantial increases in persistence, retention and passage on qualifying boards and licensure examinations.”

As director of the Office of Cultural and Institutional Diversity (OCID), Johnson and his staff have a mission to assist all UT Health Science Center disciplines in the admission and retention of students, with special emphasis on improving inclusiveness and cultural sensitivity. In addition to the conventional types of retention efforts, requests for accent modification coaching and help with English pronunciation of medical terms also has significantly increased among the health science center’s international student population. The OCID has developed workshops to address these and other increasing needs.

The Office of Cultural and Institutional Diversity, through its state-funded project, targets early intervention and retention of underrepresenative minority students. The office identifies UT students who are at risk and provides services for appropriate interventions.

“Through collaboration with representatives in each of our schools, students come into the UT community with the realization that we are generally concerned with their success and care about their well being,” says Johnson.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) defines underrepresented minorities as those racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population.

Following suit, each of the six schools which comprise the health science center have programs geared toward the recruitment and retention of a diverse student population.

The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
The University of Texas Medical School at Houston seeks to recruit students from all backgrounds through numerous programs, some of which include the Joint Admissions Medical Program, the medical school faculty participating in a preceptorship program at the Michael E. DeBakey High School for the Health Professions; the National Youth Leadership Forum in Medicine; college campus visitations and several medical school preparation workshops targeting colleges with large underrepresented minority enrollment.

“I was a part of the Joint Admissions Medical Program (JAMP), which helps minority undergraduate students prepare themselves for the medical profession,” says Kayla Mapps, a second-year student at the UT Medical School at Houston. “The program offered internships and opportunities to take medical school level courses, which helped me to become a competitive applicant. Our community is diverse and it’s important that patients have a face to relate to.”

Medical school retention activities include the pre-entry program and peer tutoring.

“Diversity enhances everyone’s education. A physician must know and respect all types of individuals in order to foster the patient-doctor relationship,” says Judianne Kellaway M.D., assistant dean for admissions at the UT Medical School at Houston. “The institution has always had an environment of supportiveness. We have the infrastructure and are committed to our mission of developing a group of students who reflect the diversity of the state of Texas.”

The medical school has been voted twice as a top 10 medical school for Hispanic students by Hispanic Business Magazine.

The University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston
The University of Texas Dental Branch at Houston hosts a number of programs dedicated to the recruitment and retention of students. Along with the medical school, the dental branch hosts the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program supported by a four-year grant funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The program is a six-week, in residence, academic enrichment program for 80 rising sophomore and junior students at undergraduate institutions. The selection criteria for the program participation targets students from disadvantaged and underserved populations.

The dental branch also has the Hispanic Center of Excellence for mentoring, which provides academic support for students at its partner Hispanic serving institutions: The University of Texas-Pan American, The University of Texas at Brownsville/ Texas Southmost College, University of Texas at El Paso, Texas A&M International University, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Other programs include: the summer enrichment program, Early Acceptance Program (EAP) and the Debakey High School for the Health Professions-Preceptorship program and college campus visitations.

“Geared toward a community that is underserved and in a culture where family roots are strong, the Early Acceptance Program is an excellent program that encourages upcoming dentists to pursue a profession that will let them ‘come home again’ to settle down,” says Anthony B. Gonzalez, a third-year dental student who was a part of the dental branch’s Early Acceptance Program. “No dentist will be providing care to a single race or ethnicity. It is the responsibility of our profession to adapt to serve the need,” says Gonzalez.

Retention programs available to dental students include a tutorial program, a peer mentor program and advising program.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Nursing
Already holding an ethnically diverse student population, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Nursing works to address the need for gender diversity in the industry. In response to the nursing shortage, the school has increased enrollment of their Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) program by 75 percent.

“Our school has one of the highest enrollments of male students in the nation,” says Patricia L. Starck, D.S.N, dean of the UT School of Nursing. “We need gender diversity if we are going to meet the supply needs for nursing. Nationally, only eight percent of nurses are male; at our school that figure is 23 percent. Furthermore, we are proud that 44 percent of our BSN students are first-generation college students.”

The key to the success of the Early Intervention Program is participation by faculty members to serve as advisors, counselors and mentors to students.
The school holds the only state-supported Nurse Anesthesia program in Texas, which is important for rural areas. The UT Health Science Center at Houston School of Nursing is ranked among the top five percent of U.S. nursing graduate schools in US News and World Report.

The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) at Houston has more than a dozen recruitment programs which serve to increase the number of underrepresented minority students admitted to the Graduate School.

“One of the most successful is the GSBS Summer Undergraduate Research Program, which receives external funding from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense,” says Thomas J. Goka, Ph.D., assistant dean for outreach and minority affairs at the UT Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. “This 10-week program focuses on bringing undergraduates from Texas Southern University and the University of Houston-Downtown onto the Texas Medical Center campus to conduct research under the mentorship of GSBS faculty members.”

Students in the program can become familiar with the process of graduate school and network with current GSBS minority graduate students. These programs are meant to encourage the participants to apply to the Graduate School and help to achieve greater community visibility for the GSBS.

The University of Texas School of Public Health
Because of its widespread campus, The University of Texas School of Public Health by nature holds a diverse student population. The UT School of Public Health and its five regional campuses in Dallas, El Paso, Austin, San Antonio and Brownsville conduct research directly affecting the communities in which the campuses are located. Along with the GSBS, the school is part of the successful Summer Graduate Research Program.

“We recruit regionally in Houston by visiting campuses like the University of Houston-Downtown, Texas Southern University and Prairie View A&M,” says Mary Ann Smith, Ph.D., associate dean for Student Affairs at the School of Public Health.

The school’s Minority Advisory Council exists to provide faculty resources to underrepresented minority students. The council also provides a student-based support system. Along with being ethnically diverse, age variation also distinguishes the school. The average student age is 32.

The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences
The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences (SHIS) has a unique certificate program which provides students with bachelor’s degrees the opportunity to take SHIS courses before applying for the master’s program. Students who apply for the certificate program are not required to take the GRE until they apply for the master’s program.

“Our certificate program has encouraged a diverse population to participate in our Health Informatics certificate,” says Jack W. Smith, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the UT School of Health Information Sciences at Houston. “I hope that the expansion of our certificate programs will encourage these diverse populations to enroll in our master’s and doctoral degree programs. The need for trained specialists in Health Informatics will continue to increase as hospital environments adopt the electronic health record.”

The program has prompted many students, who might otherwise not have enrolled, to enroll in courses. Since the certificate program began in the fall of 2006, SHIS’s diversity numbers have increased by more than 20 percent.

The UT Health Science Center at Houston
“The UT Health Science Center at Houston is committed to training health care professionals from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities so that our institution will lead in the development of culturally sensitive professionals who will deliver optimal care to the culturally and ethnically diverse groups making up the Texas population,” says L. Maximilian Buja, M.D., executive vice president for Academic Affairs at the UT Health Science Center at Houston.

With each school’s unique approach to diversity recruitment and retention, the health science center as a whole acknowledges the demand for a diverse group of health care providers.


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