Category Archives: Diversity

May 17 2013
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Expanding Diversity in the Oral Health Workforce

Kim D’Abreu is Senior Vice President for Access, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Policy Center at the American Dental Education Association.  D’Abreu was previously the deputy director for the Pipeline Profession and Practice: Community-Based Dental Education program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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Words Matter

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The words we use matter. That’s why the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) is shifting the conversation away from the “deficit model” for recruiting students from underserved backgrounds.  ADEA is specifically avoiding language that suggests “the numbers just aren’t there” or “the pool is not qualified.” When we describe underserved students as low-income or less prepared educationally, it suggests that the problem lies with them. It undervalues the students and ignores the wealth that they bring to the table in terms of cultural competence, initiative, and willingness to provide care to communities that need it most. But far worse, the deficit model allows the real institutional obstacles that these students face to remain in place.

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May 14 2013
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Breaking the Silence on African-American Men’s Health

Keon L. Gilbert, DrPH, MA, MPA, is an assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Science & Health Education at St. Louis University's College for Public Health and Social Justice. As a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Connections grantee, his research focuses on the social and economic conditions structuring disparities in the health of African American males. His work seeks to identify sources of individual, cultural, and organizational social capital to promote health behaviors, and health care access and utilization, to advance and improve the health and well-being of African American males. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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I became a public health professional because I recognized a need to find opportunities and strategies to prevent the chronic diseases I saw silently killing African Americans in the community where I grew up. I vividly recall as a child the whispers surrounding the deaths of community members about cancer, diabetes (or sugar-diabetes, as it is commonly referred to in many communities still today), heart attacks, and strokes. I knew there was stigma and fear, but never heard of programs, interventions, or opportunities to stop these trends.

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My interest in addressing these problems led me to pursue summer programs and internships during high school that allowed me to witness amputations of uncontrolled diabetic patients who had a range of clinical and social co-morbid conditions. Many of these amputees were living in poverty, they had Medicare or Medicaid, and the majority happened to be African American. This experience raised the question about prevention: How could I prevent African American men and women from having amputations? I never heard this conversation around prevention in my community. Many people seemed to accept the reality of developing these chronic conditions as a fate that could not be controlled.

I knew there had to be another way.

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May 13 2013
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The Importance of Mentoring in Achieving Greater Diversity in the Biomedical Workforce

Gary H. Gibbons, MD, is director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health. He is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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Growing up in a predominantly African American neighborhood in Philadelphia, high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks were common. When I got to medical school, I asked one of my professors why the African American community tended to have a higher prevalence of these medical conditions. He introduced me to biomedical science for the first time and challenged me to pursue that question on my own. I've continued to look for the answer to that provocative question ever since.

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Similar to that early experience, mentorship has been a determining factor in my career trajectory. I might not have pursued a research career at all if it hadn't been for Harvard Medical School professor A. Clifford Barger who inspired me to ask and answer difficult research questions. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Harold Amos Program pushed me further with their emphasis on mentorship, which gave me a sense of community with the many scholars interested in the same research problems. It was my experience with a National Institutes of Health T32 training grant when I was starting out as an investigator that inspired me to give back to a younger set of minority researchers by becoming a K Award mentor and leading a T32 program at Morehouse School of Medicine.

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May 7 2013
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Why Diversity in the Nursing Workforce Matters

Adejoke Ayoola, PhD, RN, is an assistant professor with the Calvin College Department of Nursing in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar.  This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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Nurses in the United States are caring for a progressively more diverse population. In 2008, ethnic and racial minority groups accounted for about one third of the United States population. According to the United States Census Bureau, people from ethnic and racial minority groups— namely Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander—will together outnumber non-Hispanics over the next four decades. Minorities, now 37 percent of the U.S. population, are projected to comprise 57 percent of the population in 2060. The total minority population would more than double, from 116.2 million to 241.3 million over the period (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012).  So it is essential to have a nursing workforce that will reflect the population of the United States so as to deliver cost-effective, quality care and improve patients’ satisfaction and health outcomes, especially among ethnic and racial minorities.

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The importance of promoting diversity in the nursing workforce is acknowledged by various nursing agencies and health organizations, including the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN, 2013).  Diversity in the nursing workforce provides opportunities to deliver quality care which promotes patient satisfaction and emotional well-being. 

When I take my students to the hospital for their clinical rotations in acute care, I often assign those who are Spanish-speakers to Spanish-speaking patients. It has often been a win-win situation for both my students and the patients. Recently we cared for a Hispanic patient who did not speak English and had just given birth to her first baby. Her face lit up when my student spoke to her in Spanish! There was no one else with the woman, so the student’s ability to interact with her in a language she understood made a big difference. We noticed positive progress in the patient’s emotional and physical state as a result of her interaction with the student during the shift.

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May 3 2013
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Hard Work and Investing in Others Opens Opportunities

Felix German Contreras, 22, of Atlantic City, N.J., credits his 2012 participation in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), and his teachers at the Yale University site, for opening new doors to opportunities. A naturalized U.S. citizen, Contreras emigrated to the U.S. with his family at age 6. He will graduate from Atlantic Cape Community College next year and plans to attend Yale School of Medicine. Started in 1988, more than 21,000 alumni have completed SMDEP, which today sponsors 12 university sites with each accepting up to 80 students per summer session. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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Living as an immigrant and student with only part-time employment is a daily battle. But I will never allow these challenges to slay my dreams. With so many struggles, I am often asked: “Felix, how do you do it?”

I cannot help but smile when I reply, as it is not a secret; nor do I believe it is a talent—it is simply a strong work ethic. I have realized the best things in life are the hardest to obtain.

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My doors to new unexpected opportunities were opened when a late-night online search in 2012 led me to the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program. I applied and was accepted at the six-week program’s Yale University site. It was there where I met mentors and students with similar aspirations to improve communities through medicine. Not only did the intensive program place me on a sure-footed path toward a health sciences career, my English improved tremendously through rigorous reading and writing. You can’t believe how much six weeks can give someone who is eager to receive. SMDEP exposed me to countless possibilities on the other side.

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May 2 2013
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A Personal Mission: Bridging the Oral Health Care Gap

Monique Trice, 24, is a University of Louisville School of Dentistry student who will complete her studies in 2015. Trice completed the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) in 2008 at the University of Louisville site. Started in 1988, SMDEP (formerly known as the Minority Medical Education Program and Summer Medical and Education Program), is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation–sponsored program with more than 21,000 alumni. Today, SMDEP sponsors 12 sites, with each accepting up to 80 students per summer session. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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Diversity is more than ethnicity. It also includes geography, perspective, and more. I was raised in Enterprise, Ala., which is in Coffee County. The community’s demographic and geographic makeup set the stage for an oral health care crisis. Here’s how:

  • Enterprise is a community of 27,000 and just 15 licensed general dentists, three Medicaid dental providers, and zero licensed pediatric dentists to service Coffee County, a population of 51,000. In 2011, Alabama’s Office of Primary Care and Rural Health reported that 65 of the state’s 67 counties were designated as dental health shortage areas for low-income populations.
  • According to this data, more than 260 additional dentists would be needed to bridge gaps and fully meet the need. For some residents, time, resources, and distance figure into the equation, putting dental care out of reach. In some rural communities, an hour’s drive is required to access dental services.
  • Lack of affordable public transportation creates often-insurmountable barriers to accessing dental care.
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Growing up in a single-parent household, my siblings and I experienced gaps in dental care. Fortunately, we never suffered from an untreated cavity from poor oral health care, but many low-income, underserved children and adults are not so lucky.

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May 1 2013
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Strategies for Enhancing Diversity

Catherine J. Malone, MBA, DBA(c), is a program associate working in the areas of diversity and nursing for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This is the first in a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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As a member of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Human Capital team leading the group’s diversity efforts and the Foundation’s Diversity Team, I would like to share some of our work in this area. I must start by noting that “diversity” means different things to different people. At RWJF we recognize and value all types of diversity and therefore have a broad definition of the term which is described in the Foundation “Diversity Statement” below:

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“Diversity and inclusion are core values of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, reflected in our Guiding Principles. We value differences among individuals across multiple dimensions including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion and socioeconomic status. We believe that the more we include diverse perspectives and experiences in our work, the better able we are to help all Americans live healthier lives and get the care they need. In service to our mission, we pledge to promote these values in the work we do and to reflect on our progress regularly.”

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Apr 16 2013
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Male Entry into a Discipline Not Designed to Accommodate Gender: Making Space for Diversity in Nursing

Michael R. Bleich, PhD, RN, FAAN, is Maxine Clark and Bob Fox dean and professor at the Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College in St. Louis, Mo. He is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Executive Nurse Fellows program (2000-2002).

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With help from co-authors Brent MacWilliams, PhD, ANP, and Bonnie Schmidt, PhD(c), RN, in our recent American Journal of Nursing article summarizing research on men in nursing—and further inspired by a manuscript by Dena Hassouneh, PhD, ANP, entitled Anti-Racist Pedagogy: Challenges Faced by Faculty of Color in Predominantly White Schools of Nursing in the July 2006 issue of the Journal of Nursing Education—I am in a reflective place. After a nearly 40-year journey as a male in nursing, I now realize the discipline was never designed for me.

"Why did the faculty not do more to buffer me from faculty who were overtly gender-disparaging? Why were the gloves in procedural kits always sized for smaller hands?"

That is not to say that I have not had a fabulous career, worked with the finest colleagues one could imagine, or had opportunities that provided continuous challenge and opportunity. But as a discipline, nursing has had its broad shifts.  Florence Nightingale was a master of evidence-based practice and spent a lifetime elevating nursing to a discipline in a world that was political, gender-biased against women, scientifically evolving, caste-oriented, and more. The gift of structure, process, and outcomes she gave nursing are irreplaceable.

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Mar 1 2013
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The Nursing Workforce Is Less Diverse Than the Nation

Nurses play a critical role in expanding access, improving quality, and reducing the cost of health care for millions of Americans. But today’s nursing workforce is not nearly as diverse as the country.

Numerous studies find that a more diverse nursing workforce can provide care that is more culturally competent, offering benefits to patients, the health care system, and communities. As the Institute of Medicine's landmark report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, notes, “Because nurses make up the largest proportion of the health care workforce and work across virtually every health care and community-based setting, changing the demographic composition of nurses has the potential to effect changes in the face of health care in America." 

Click the "Read More" link to see the infographic, or download it here.

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Feb 28 2013
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More Men Becoming Nurses—With Higher Pay

Though it remains a predominantly female profession, a new study from the U.S. Census Bureau finds that the percentage of nurses who are male more than tripled from 1970 to 2011, from 2.7 percent to 9.6 percent.

The Census Bureau’s Men in Nursing Occupations also finds the proportion of male licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses increased, from 3.9 percent to 8.1 percent. Men's representation was highest among nurse anesthetists (41%).

“The aging of our population has fueled an increasing demand for long-term care and end-of-life services," said the report's author, Liana Christin Landivar, a sociologist in the Census Bureau's Industry and Occupation Statistics Branch, said in a news release about the study. “A predicted shortage has led to recruiting and retraining efforts to increase the pool of nurses. These efforts have included recruiting men into nursing.”

The study also found that men typically earn more in nursing fields than women, but not by as much as they do across all occupations.  Male nurses earned an average of $60,700 in 2011—16 percent more than the average earnings for female nurses, which was $51,100. The difference in earnings is due partly to the concentration of men in higher-paid nursing occupations, like nurse anesthetics. “Men have typically enjoyed higher wages and faster promotions in female-dominated occupations,” the study says, a phenomenon known as the “glass escalator” effect.

Read the study.
Read a news release about the study.