UAMS, Roundtable Partners Look to Expand Diversity in Health Care

Christine Patterson, Arkansas Minority Health Commission chair, left; Idonia Trotter, commission director; UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D.; Vivian Flowers, UAMS Center for Diversity Affairs director of recruitment for diversity; and Willa Sanders, Arkansas Center for Health Disparities education and training core co-director, take part in the April 11 meeting of the Public Health Leaders Roundtable.

The Arkansas Minority Health Commission and the Public Health Leaders Roundtable meet April 11 at UAMS.

April 17, 2013 | Arkansas’ health care workforce will more closely mirror its population and include more underrepresented minorities if a pilot project to be implemented in two Little Rock public schools by UAMS and its partners in the Public Health Leaders Roundtable is successful.

The Arkansas Minority Health Commission established the roundtable group in 2010 to focus state resources on health equity issues in the state. The group, composed of 31 organizations including UAMS, met on campus April 11. It will meet with the Little Rock School District Board and administration in late April to introduce its plans for the initiative at Hall High School and Forest Heights Middle School, seeking the district’s support.

If the district approves the plan, during the next three years the initiative’s partners will endeavor to increase the students’ knowledge of health professions, guide and support students for higher education and encourage them down a path toward a profession in health care.

“We’ve learned that the health of one extends and is connected to the health of everyone — across income levels, ethnicity, age and gender,” UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., said. “All of us are in this together and need to recognize that connectedness.”

Increasing health care workforce diversity is about making that connection by having providers who reflect those seeking health care.

Rahn said UAMS organizes and works at increasing diversity among its students, faculty and staff through the university’s Center for Diversity Affairs.

Later during the meeting, roundtable members heard and discussed reports of plans for the initiative. All of the partners are committing resources and personnel to help with its implementation in more than 20 different areas. Through the Center for Diversity Affairs, the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health and the Center for Rural Health, UAMS has pledged its support in 15 of those, ranging from family services, internships and mentoring to health screenings, university student volunteers and financial aid.

In addition to the Little Rock School District, the Central Little Rock Promise Neighborhood and Leadership Education in Neuro-Disabilities (LEND) will coordinate and focus those resources and personnel from the roundtable partners in the two schools.

UAMS is the lead university in LEND, which also includes the University of Central Arkansas, University of Arkansas at Little Rock and University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Along with mentoring and performing health screenings, LEND volunteer undergraduates and postgraduate students will make presentations to classes at the schools about what it’s like to be a student and how to prepare for health professions.

Only one in four students from the two schools goes on to seek a certificate or degree after high school.

The Arkansas Minority Health Commission is a state panel tasked with identifying gaps in health service that affect minorities, studying issues related to minority access to health care, and making recommendations to the Legislature and state agencies for improving that access.

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