Increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of the health-care workforce has been identified as a key factor to addressing health disparities and ensuring the adequate provision of culturally competent care to our nation’s growing minority communities.
To encourage diversity in the health-care workforce, the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center has initiated several novel programs and initiatives focused on the recruitment, education and training of a diverse group of future health-care educators, practitioners and leaders.
Diversity in the health-care workforce is essential if we hope to ensure gains in the health and well-being of our state and nation. With a population that is 35-percent Latino and Native American, Arizona suffers from serious health disparities and access to quality care – challenges made even more profound by the lack of diversity in the biomedical and health-care workforce. Creating a diverse health-care workforce, representative of the populations it serves, is a strategic priority for the UA Health Sciences.
I am pleased to report that our efforts are paying off. For example, the incoming UA College of Medicine – Tucson Class of 2019 is our most diverse ever, with 26 Hispanic, 11 Native American and seven African American students. Diversity does not happen by chance: A dedicated team leads the effort across the state, providing support and sharing expertise to mentor students in a variety of diversity-and-inclusion programs specifically created to positively impact health care.
Our highly competitive UA summer diversity programs include Med-Start, a statewide summer residency program for high school seniors (now in its 46th year), as well as two new nationally competitive programs, BLAISER and AZ-PRIDE (please see below for a more detailed outline of our summer diversity programs). These new programs represent our strong commitment to improve diversity in the health sciences on a national level by providing undergraduate juniors and seniors, as well as early-career academics selected from throughout the nation, with advanced research training under the close mentorship of distinguished faculty members.
Without the strong commitment of our faculty, we could not offer these programs or meet our final objective – the sustained reduction of health disparities. As we work to make our health sciences center a national model for the development, recruitment and retention of a diverse health professions student body, faculty and health-care workforce, we count on your continued support and commitment.
Please take a moment to learn more about several of our strategic diversity initiatives at the UA Health Sciences Center.
Joe G.N. “Skip” Garcia, MD
UA Senior Vice President for Health Sciences
Dr. Merlin K. DuVal Professor of Medicine
Elected Member of the National Academy of Medicine
Programs offered through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson:
The new AZ-PRIDE Program was developed to provide training in the biomedical sciences for early-career academics who come from under-represented minority backgrounds, including people with living disabilities. Funded by a $1.25 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant, the program’s inaugural class includes nine junior faculty members, recruited from universities throughout the nation, who train with faculty mentors for one year. While training at the UA Health Sciences Center, they gain expertise from some of the nation’s best physician-scientists in the fields of heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders, with the aim to increase the number of experts in health disparities research. The program began June 8 and entails three weeks of summer training, including a trip to the Mexico-Arizona border and distance learning in health disparities research methods to supplement direct instruction and other support programs.
The new Border Latino and American Indian Summer Exposure to Research (BLAISER) program launched June 8 and runs through Aug. 12. The UA Health Sciences-funded program focuses its efforts on addressing health disparities in Arizona’s ethnically diverse and fast-growing communities. The 10-week, paid undergraduate research experience provides an extraordinary laboratory training opportunity, pairing the student-scholars with preeminent UA health sciences researchers. They gain hands-on experience as they conduct research to gain insight into some of our more challenging diseases. BLAISER is designed to help underrepresented students, including Latino, Native American and African American undergraduate juniors and seniors, become nationally competitive medical school, health professions and biosciences-focused graduate school applicants. The inaugural class includes 15 underrepresented students majoring in biology, chemistry, physiology, microbiology, engineering, computer sciences and similar fields, from border-region universities – including the University of Texas at El Paso – as well as all three Arizona public universities.
FRONTERA Summer Internship Program
Meeting the heath-care needs of the people of Arizona includes ensuring that those who live along its border with Mexico, home to an estimated 2 million people, are served by a health-care workforce representative of this unique, vibrant community. Understanding the bicultural nature of life among people who share similar resources and are economically and socially interdependent is vital to the improvement of border health-care outcomes. In response, 10 students were selected for the Frontera Summer Internship Program. Frontera (Focusing Research on the Border Area), provides undergraduate student opportunities to prepare for medical school with a hands-on research experience and an increased understanding of public-health disparities in the U.S.-Mexico border region. Participants are matched with UA faculty mentors engaged in biomedical and public-health research that has an impact on border communities. They develop an in-depth understanding of the pathway to medical school, including study and test-taking skills, preparation for the MCAT and how to draft a personal statement, as well as visits to border communities, health-care facilities and public health agencies on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as service-learning activities. The program began June 3 and continues through Aug. 11.
Since 1969, more than 1,000 high school students from Arizona’s most remote and under-represented areas have been accepted into the Med-Start program. The highly competitive health career interest program is a proven success with 80 percent of its participants progressing to higher education. The Med-Start program addresses the critical shortage of a diverse health-care workforce and provides students opportunities to explore health careers and college opportunities to successfully reach their academic and career goals. This year, 46 Med-Start Tucson students, selected from some of Arizona’s most underserved communities, experienced college life by earning four units of college credit through the UA during the six-week program. The high school students took an English composition class, an introductory to chemistry lab and learned about college success strategies in structured “College 101” workshops. Med-Start students present research and participate in interactive presentations throughout AHSC, learning skills needed in health professions, such as responding to trauma incidents, treating fractures and neck and spine injuries, learning dissection and suturing skills, learning to make lip balm and anti-itch lotion and touring the gross anatomy lab and the ASTEC simulation lab, among others. The program began May 31 and continued through July 11.
Pre-Medical Admissions Pathway (P-MAP)
Ten students from the inaugural P-MAP class, launched in May 2014, have been admitted to the UA College of Medicine – Tucson for the Class of 2019. P-MAP (Pre-Medical Admissions Pathway) is open to students who lack the educational and economic advantages that help students get accepted to medical school and cope with its rigorous curriculum, but whose character and commitment – and academic record – make them outstanding candidates. P-MAP illustrates the college’s strong emphasis to train students who are inclined to work with underserved communities, including reservations and rural and border communities, where they can help address the dramatic health disparities encountered by these communities.
Programs offered through the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix:
Pathway Scholars Program
The UA College of Medicine – Phoenix just completed its first Pathway Scholars Program. The one-year graduate certificate of study gives students who may have been under-resourced, for a variety of reasons, a unique opportunity to prove their ability to succeed in a medical school environment. Ten students spent the year in a highly structured environment that combines first-year medical school curriculum with personalized learning strategies provided by supportive faculty and learning specialists helping to ensure student success. The students completing the program earn a graduate certificate in Professional Studies in Health Sciences from the UA. They must meet admission requirements to earn acceptance into the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix. All 10 of the first-year program participants are in the newly admitted Class of 2019. The admissions process for the Pathway Scholars Program identifies exceptional Arizona candidates who, secondary to socioeconomic status, educational opportunities, geography or being a first-generation college attendee, may lack extremely competitive medical school applications.
The downtown Phoenix campus has played host to teenagers each summer since 2004 and now has the only program of its kind in Arizona to provide a medical profession-focused program for ninth and 10th graders. Summer Scrubs includes 11th graders in week-long intensive workshops. Counselors, who are current or aspiring medical students, serve as student mentors and camp staff. In the initial week of the summer session, high school freshmen and sophomores are introduced into health professions. The second week had 11th graders exploring medical school with an introduction to various specialties from physician instructors. The final week hosts a group of high school juniors in an immersive program featuring the rigors of medical school, including living in a residence hall near campus. The teens learn medical skills in the simulation center, participate in laboratory research and learn from faculty representing a wide range of health-care disciplines. Summer Scrubs is partially funded by the Arizona Latin-American Medical Association and Greater Valley Area Health Education Center. The program aims to increase the number of underrepresented health-care professionals in Arizona.
Other programs offered at the UA Health Sciences:
Summer Institute on Medical Ignorance Research Program
Since 1987, the Summer Institute on Medical Ignorance (SIMI) Research Program at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson has been offering high school students opportunities to work full-time with pay on biomedical research projects with the college’s researchers in their laboratories and clinics while learning to question established medical knowledge. The seven week multi-institute NIH-funded program has trained nearly 700 financially, socially or educationally disadvantaged high school students from throughout Arizona and other states to use the insights and techniques of medical ignorance – unanswered questions and unquestioned answers – in a positive research experience that stimulates inquiry and collaboration while encouraging them to go on to college and continue their research and career development. Many SIMI graduates have pursued careers in medicine, nursing, pharmacy and veterinary medicine as well as graduate work in the biomedical sciences. SIMI also encompasses other long-standing NIH-funded programs promoting entry and progression of diverse disadvantaged undergraduate and medical students in the biomedical/research workforce pipeline.
Early each summer, the UA College of Pharmacy sponsors PharmCamp for middle-school students. The one-week program introduces seventh-and eighth-graders to different health professions and helps them learn more about the roles pharmacists play in clinics, community pharmacies, hospitals and other locations. Usually the college collaborates with one or more school districts to select the "campers." In recent years, the program expanded to include camps in Yuma and other towns, as well the traditional Tucson event. For more information about PharmCamp, contact Associate Dean Theodore Tong.