Category Archives: Diversity

Feb 26 2013

Diversity in Medical Education

A report from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) documents an overall trend toward increased diversity among students applying to medical school.

AAMC’s Diversity in Medical Education: Facts and Figures 2012 finds that nearly half of the applicants to U.S. medical schools in 2011 were non-White. Whites were the largest group of applicants, followed by Asians. “Compared with 2010, in 2011 the percentage of Hispanic or Latino applicants increased by 5.7 percent and the number of Black or African American applicants grew by 5 percent,” the report says.

But only 2.5 percent of medical school applicants in 2011 were Black men. Twice as many Black women as men applied to medical school that year, creating the biggest gender gap in medical school applicants among all racial or ethnic groups.

“We have a major, major problem in this country,” Marc Nivet, EdD, AAMC’s chief diversity officer, told American Medical News. “There is just simply an enormous amount of indisputable evidence that we’re not intervening as effectively as we’d like as a society to increase the talent pool of African-Americans who are capable of taking advantage of the science curricula available up and down the pipeline.”

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Jan 21 2013

Meet the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program

This is part of a series introducing programs in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Human Capital Portfolio.

The Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program
is on the verge of a milestone: it will observe its 30th anniversary this year.  In 2012, the program achieved another notable distinction, as a third alumnus was selected to lead an institute at the National Institutes of Health: Gary Gibbons, MD, (’88) is now director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). He joined Griffin Rogers, MD, MACP, (’83) Director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; and Roderic Pettigrew, MD, PhD, (’83) Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

Formerly known as the Minority Medical Faculty Development Program, the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program (AFMDP) was created to increase the number of faculty from historically disadvantaged backgrounds who can achieve senior rank in academic medicine or dentistry, and who will encourage and foster the development of succeeding classes of such physicians and dentists. AFMDP offers four-year postdoctoral research awards to historically disadvantaged physicians and dentists who are committed to developing careers in academic medicine and to serving as role models for students and faculty of similar background.

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Dec 19 2012

Examining the Usefulness of Engrained Practices: Re-Imagining the Application Process

Practices that work within a particular framework of goals and priorities can become engrained in the work of institutions. But what happens when the framework shifts?  Regular review of practices and the assumptions that support them offers one of the best opportunities to enhance diversity and inclusion, which can in turn improve the effective results of Scholar and Fellow programs. 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Diversity Matters Podcast Series features host Jacinta Gauda in conversation with leaders and subject matter experts on practical ways to support diversity and inclusion.  In the podcast, available now, W. David Brunson, DDS, Senior Director of the Policy Center for Access, Diversity, and Inclusion of the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), and Marc Nivet, EdD, Chief Diversity Officer, Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), discuss the practice of holistic review. 

Increasingly adopted by medical and dental schools, holistic review is sometimes misunderstood as affirmative action or as an initiative designed solely to increase diversity.  Nivet and Brunson will clear up these misconceptions, and explain what it is and what it is not.  Listeners will learn how the practice evolved, how it is applied equitably across the entire applicant pool, and how it aligns admissions policies, processes, and criteria with institution-specific goals.  Nivet and Brunson will also describe ADEA- and AAMC-sponsored workshops in which admissions deans, staff, and committee members learn how to integrate holistic review into their admission processes.  

Holistic review can help institutions to achieve the true culture of diversity and inclusion that they will need if they are to effectively address the nation’s challenges in health and health care.

Visit the Diversity Matters Community to download podcasts and summaries for practices that are working to increase representation in health and health care.

Dec 14 2012

Meet RWJF New Connections

This is part of a series introducing programs in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Human Capital Portfolio.

Raphael Travis, DrPH, knows the power of New Connections. For Travis, New Connections’ training events—such as symposiums and coaching clinics—were an important source for professional development in a welcoming atmosphere. He says, “I heard about the actual grants during the training workshop and knew I had to apply. The ambiance was inspiring, welcoming and needed. The combination of a supportive atmosphere and intellectual depth transcended what my home University offered. I was very excited to apply.”

file Raphael Travis, DrPH

Travis, a 2008 grantee, is an assistant professor at Texas State University- San Marcos. His New Connections project uses data collected in the 1997-2002 evaluation of Health Link, a program established to help reduce substance abuse among individuals returning to their New York City community after incarceration at Riker’s Island. The study explores: how positive youth development opportunities relate to recidivism; the relationships among mental health, substance use and recidivism across time points; and the potential cultural uniqueness between African-American and Latino youth.

file Hector Rodriguez, PhD, MPH

Hector Rodriguez, PhD, MPH, knows the power of New Connections too. For Rodriguez, the program offered training and new research methods that powered his work. Rodriguez says, “New Connections is a fantastic opportunity for underrepresented junior faculty to pursue important public health and health care research, while being connected to a large network of prominent scholars.”

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Dec 3 2012

Caring For, and Learning From, a Relative with Intellectual Disabilities

Susie Breitenstein, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC, is an assistant professor at the Rush University College of Nursing and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar.  Breitenstein is a child and adolescent psychiatric clinical nurse specialist; she works with children and families with developmental and intellectual disorders.


My Uncle Greg was born in 1947. He was the 5th of six children.  About six months after his birth, my grandparents were advised to place him in an institution. Greg had the genetic disorder, Trisomy 21, more commonly known as Down Syndrome. In 1947, there were few services for children and adults with intellectual disabilities and very little expectations for independence and cognitive and social abilities. In fact, institutionalization was considered the best option for the child and family. My grandparents rejected this option and chose to keep him at home and raise him with his siblings. This was not an easy decision as they were told that he would never walk, learn, or participate in society.

Throughout his life my grandparents, Greg’s siblings, their spouses, and his 25 nieces and nephews took great joy in his accomplishments and his personality. After he learned to walk, every evening my grandfather would take him on a walk in the neighborhood. When he learned new things, his family rejoiced. When he participated in family, religious and social events, we applauded. When he sang ‘Silent Night’ off key, we beamed.

Greg was full of life—the friendliest and happiest person I’ve known.

During Greg’s life, many changes occurred regarding understanding of Down Syndrome and treatment options for individuals with Intellectual Disabilities. In fact, in 1959, the chromosomal abnormality causing Down Syndrome was discovered. In the 1960s there emerged the field of developmental pediatrics and understanding that an enriched environment can support cognitive function. In the 1970s, the right of every child to a free and appropriate education was established.

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Nov 5 2012

Lesson from APHA: For Most Immigrants, Immigration Policy is Health Policy and Vice Versa

Tiffany D. Joseph, PhD, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Scholar in Health Policy Research at Harvard University (2011-2013).  This post is part of a series in which RWJF scholars, fellows and alumni who are attending the American Public Health Association annual meeting reflect on the experience.


It was incredibly exciting to attend the American Public Health Association (APHA) meeting for the first time! As a sociologist and current RWJF Health Policy Research Scholar, I am thrilled to be at a multidisciplinary conference with an explicit focus on all aspects of health: outcomes, disparities, coverage, service utilization. You name it, there is a session for it.

The opening was especially motivating and inspiring as Dr. Reed Tuckson and Gail Sheehy provided insightful talks on the relevance of preventive health throughout the life course and how public health professionals must continue to work to improve access to, and quality of, health care for a U.S. population that is increasingly racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse.

U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi also stopped by, unannounced, to welcome the APHA to San Francisco and thank its members for their steadfast commitment to, and support for, passage and implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or ACA).  Needless to say, everyone in attendance was thrilled and excited by her surprise visit and warm words.

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Oct 31 2012

Living and Learning at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting

Myra Parker, JD, PhD, is acting instructor at the Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Washington and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections grantee. This post is part of a series in which RWJF scholars, fellows and alumni who are attending the American Public Health Association annual meeting reflect on the experience.


I took my seven-year-old daughter to help me pick up my registration materials at the Moscone Center. I was thrilled to map the American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian (AI/AN/NH) sessions and discover they are located in one of the central buildings this year! It’s terrific to be able to attend the general sessions AND those specific to my community, which has not always been the case with AI/AN/NH sessions held in off-site hotels last year in Washington, D.C.

My daughter was amazed and excited to see the performances outside the convention center. The artistic displays added to the air of festivity as American Public Health Association (APHA) attendees took over the Moscone area. I was excited to see the diversity of attendees across many different professional backgrounds and ethnic/cultural communities.

We attended the American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Caucus General Membership Business Meeting. This was the first time I had the opportunity to attend the business meeting, which included officer elections for the upcoming two years, introductions of members and visitors, and updates on the caucus budget and events. The caucus was able to fund six undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students from AI/AN/NH communities to attend APHA this year at $2,000 each. This is a wonderful new opportunity for these students, each of whom also applied to present a poster at the conference. I plan to attend the caucus social on Monday evening, which includes a silent auction of native art! This fundraiser contributes to the cost of providing caucus-specific sessions as well as to the student scholarship fund. I also learned that if we pack a room at the conference, there is a higher chance the caucus will be able to offer these sessions next year.

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Oct 30 2012

An APHA Presentation: Addressing Racial Health Disparities with Culturally Competent Interventions Delivered from the African American Church

By Daniel L. Howard, PhD, executive director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College. The Center’s mission is to provide leadership in health policy education, research and reform, while improving the health and health care of underserved communities. This post is part of a series in which RWJF scholars, fellows and alumni who are attending the American Public Health Association annual meeting reflect on the experience.

Daniel Howard

This week, I am part of a team that had the honor of being chosen to conduct a presentation on mental health in African American faith-based communities at the 140th Annual Meeting and Exposition for the American Public Health Association (APHA).  This is a significant topic for clinicians, researchers and policy-makers to consider when addressing mental health needs for African American individuals and their communities.

The Surgeon General’s Report Supplement (2001) noted that science can offer effective treatments for most disorders.  However, it noted, “Americans do not share equally in the best that science has to offer.” Numerous others researchers have concluded that publicly provided behavioral health services must be improved for ethnic minorities.

Research has consistently shown that, despite significant prevalence of mental health issues in the United States, most individuals do not seek treatment for these issues. Historically, research has shown that African Americans are even less likely to seek mental health treatment than their Caucasian counterparts. There are several reasons for this that are not exclusive to, but do include, the stigma that surrounds mental health in African American communities, the perceptions of mental health in African American communities, and the limited mental health resources available to address mental health needs in the community.

Despite the indication that the majority of mental health service needs for African Americans are unmet, there has been a strong and consistent response from the African American church to serve as the surrogate for the medical sector. Many published studies have found that African American churches have strong potential to serve as a highly effective gateway for the successful delivery of health intervention. The compatibility between health and wellness and African American churches, and particularly between mental health wellness and African American churches, can be attributed to several factors including the church’s consistent tradition of supporting its members and the inherent emphasis on the healing of psychological ills.

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Oct 25 2012

When Crossing the Street is the Difference Between Life and Death

Comilla Sasson, MD, MS, FACEP is an attending physician at the University of Colorado Hospital and Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado.  Sasson was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan from 2007 to 2010. Her latest study is published in the October 25th, 2012 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.


Dead. How do you make someone “undead?” How, with just your two hands, can you prolong the time that paramedics have to restart a person’s heart? How can a normal, ordinary person make a difference and literally save a life?

We know that a person’s chances of surviving an out-of-hospital sudden heart arrest decreases by 10 percent for every one minute he/she does not get CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).  I had learned about hands-only CPR in my medical training.  Hands-only CPR is where all you have to do is push hard and fast (to the tune of “Staying Alive”) at a 100 times a minute until helps arrives.

But time and time again, I cared for African-American patients in Atlanta who had laid in their families’ homes for critical minutes as their brains slowly died from a lack of blood supply from the heart.  Their hearts had stopped and no one called 911. No one placed their hands on the chest and started doing hands-only CPR.

Maybe this is just Atlanta? Is it the color of a person’s skin or is the place where he or she collapses that makes the difference?

In my Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program (RWJCSP) at the University of Michigan (2007-2010), I learned about the importance of neighborhoods in determining a person’s health.  After wading through the literature, my a priori hypothesis was that having someone stop to provide CPR is completely dependent upon others; therefore, the neighborhood plays a large role in whether or not someone does CPR.

After consulting with my two RWJCSP alumni mentors, David Magid, MD, MPH, and Arthur Kellermann, MD, MPH, FACEP, the question became clear: What role does the racial and socioeconomic composition of a neighborhood have on an individual’s likelihood of receiving life-saving bystander CPR?

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Oct 23 2012

Physician Shortage No Longer Limited to Rural Areas

Large population centers like Las Vegas and Detroit are feeling the effects of the nation’s physician shortage, Bloomberg News reports, which is no longer limited to rural areas. Patients in populous urban areas are waiting weeks—or even months—or traveling to find the care they need.

Many factors are contributing to the shortage, including an aging physician workforce that is reaching retirement, and not enough new doctors in the pipeline to replace them and care for an influx of patients with increasingly complex health care needs.

Doctors also tend to stay near where they train, the story reports, creating poor distribution in states like Nevada that don’t have large medical schools or training hospitals. Census Bureau data shows that Nevada has the fifth-lowest ratio of doctors to patients in the country, behind Wyoming, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Idaho.

One possible solution: other health care professionals. “In a bid to address the shortage, the medical community has embraced the greater use of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who can prescribe medicines and diagnose and treat many illnesses,” the story reports.

What do you think? What steps will convince physicians to practice in underserved areas? Register below to leave a comment.

Read the Bloomberg News story.