Category Archives: Diversity

Oct 3 2013
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Human Capital News Roundup: The Tour for Diversity in Medicine, the cost of food allergies, peer navigators for patients with mental illness, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

The Tour for Diversity in Medicine, founded in part by RWJF Summer Medical and Dental Education Program alumnus Alden Landry, MD, MPH, recently made a stop at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, the Washington Post reports. The Tour is a grassroots effort to educate, inspire, and cultivate students who are underrepresented in the nation’s medical and dental schools by reaching out to them on the nation’s college campuses. Learn more about the Tour for Diversity here and here.

Peter Ubel, MD, an alumnus of the RWJF Generalist Physician Faculty Scholars program and a recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, was a guest on Marketplace radio to talk about the effect of advertisements about the Affordable Care Act. Read a post Ubel wrote for the RWJF Human Capital Blog about the health care law.

Childhood food allergies are costing the United States an estimated $24.8 billion every year—mostly due to costs that are not direct medical care—according to a study led by RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars alumna Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH. The study also asked parents what they would be willing to pay to make their child’s food allergy disappear overnight, Huffington Post reports. The average answer was $3,504 per year—close to the $3,457 average annual per family cost of managing a food allergy. Read a post Gupta wrote about her research for the RWJF Human Capital Blog.

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Sep 18 2013
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Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge: The September 2013 Issue

Have you signed up to receive Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge? The monthly Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) e-newsletter will keep you up to date on the work of RWJF’s nursing programs, and the latest news, research, and trends relating to academic progression, leadership, and other critically important nursing issues. These are some of the stories in the September issue:

Wanted: Young Nurse Faculty
Nearly three-quarters of full-time nurse faculty are 50 and older, and the nurse faculty workforce is on the brink of a mass retirement. Most young nurses have chosen to work in other settings, and the insufficient number of young nurse faculty threatens to exacerbate the looming nurse shortage. Read about what is stopping young nurses from entering academia, and how RWJF programs are encouraging faculty careers.

RWJF Fellow Tapped to Head New Diversity Initiative in California
RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumna Mary Lou de Leon Siantz was tapped in June to head up the Center for the Advancement of Multicultural Perspectives on Science (CAMPOS) at the University of California, Davis, which aims to increase the participation of women, and Latinas in particular, in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. The appointment of a Latina nurse to this high-profile position calls attention to the often overlooked fact that science undergirds the nursing profession, and to the valuable role that women, and Latinas, play in scientific endeavors.

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Jun 14 2013
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Online Mentoring Site Aims to Close ‘Mentoring Gap’

Underrepresented students considering careers in medicine can talk to mentors and join discussions on the free, web-based mentoring site, DiverseMedicine.org. Launched in August 2012, the site now has 400 active users, American Medical News reports.

High school, college and medical school students can interact with mentors on the site in real time through instant messaging or video chat functions, and learn about admissions testing, residency applications, and more in discussion forums. The site also features podcasts, video lectures and other resources on topics important to aspiring physicians, and a feature that allows students to participate in a mock medical school interview.

“One of the main reasons why there are so few minorities in the field of medicine is because of the mentoring gap. If nobody’s there to tell you how to get into medical school, you’re not going to get in,” Dale O. Okorodudu, MD, the project’s founder, told American Medical News.

Read the American Medical News article.

Jun 12 2013
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Diversity Needs to be Front and Center

Efrain Talamantes, MD, MBA, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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Diversity in health care is critical in providing quality health care to all Americans. As physicians, we care for patients from all walks of life and we strive to heal with our expertise, compassion and open-mindedness. Our health system and patients benefit greatly from health professionals who can speak and understand different languages, and who always strive to understand different backgrounds, cultures, practices, and beliefs. Research shows that diversity in the health care workforce enhances training for health professionals and improves access to quality health care.

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There is an unprecedented demographic transformation happening in our country today; the majority of births are from Hispanics, Blacks, Asians and other racial and ethnic minorities. Since 1985, the number of underrepresented ethnic and racial minority medical school applicants, matriculates, and graduates has leveled off at about 15 percent, while their representation in the U.S. population has been nearly twice as high—and they are on pace to become the majority.

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Jun 5 2013
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Us and Them: A Pain Researcher Discusses Why Diversity in Health Care Matters

Martin Schiavenato, PhD, RN, is an assistant professor at the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies, 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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It is human nature.  The old adage “opposites attract” is a myth; in fact, the contrary is true.  We feel more comfortable with and welcome those who share in our definition of “us” than not.  Accordingly, this also forms the basis to how we define “them.”  It is intuitive that we feel connected to and prefer those who share in what we believe to be our experience, and that we are suspicious and even spurn those who we feel do not.  This phenomenon is referred to by psychologists as “in-group bias.”

"When it comes to providing best clinical care, race and culture matter."

Schiavenato in lab coat

In my field of pain research, there is ample documentation of how clinician preferences impact the care of patients.  Clinicians better address pain management in patients who “match” their reference group or their preferences more closely. For example, better pain care is given to patients who speak the same language, are of similar socioeconomic status, or even those considered more attractive to the clinician. Subtle cues from the patient—their physical appearance, the circumstances that brought them to seek care, their behaviors and expressions—all will have a consequence on the nature of the care that they will receive.  Thus, the race and culture of the clinician have the potential to be significant contributors in the quality of care that a patient will receive.  This inherent tension between “us” and “them” may be particularly relevant in a country with a history of institutionalized racism.

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Jun 4 2013
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Diversity in Nursing Education Helps Students Learn Respect and Appreciation for Differences

Mable Smith, PhD, JD, MSN, BSN, RN, is founding dean of the College of Nursing at Roseman University of Health Sciences (formerly the University of Southern Nevada) and an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows program. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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A diverse nursing student body builds the foundation for a diverse workforce that can become effective in the provision of culturally competent care to patients. Our student body at Roseman University of Health Sciences is reflective of the diversity seen in the population that consists of Caucasians, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders, to name a few.  This diversity is reflected in the health care system among workers and patients. Students bring a wealth of information that is shared with each other and with faculty.

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For example, in a class discussion on nutrition, students from various cultures shared how and what types of foods are used to treat certain illnesses. There were discussions on how food should be presented, such as hot versus cold, raw versus cooked.  Some students shared the significance of family presence during meals even for hospitalized patients. These discussions quickly incorporated religious practices and certain etiquettes to promote “religious correctness” when interacting with various cultural and religious groups. Students also provided insight into generational differences and changes with emphasis on the fact that many in the younger generation have not adopted the strict traditions of their parents and grandparents.

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May 31 2013
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Health Inequities Harm Everyone

LisaMarie Turk, RN, MSN, is a fellow with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative at the University of New Mexico, working toward a PhD in nursing with a health policy concentration. She was awarded a Hearst Foundation Scholarship in 2010. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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Ample scientific and empirical evidence supports increasing diversity in the health care workforce in order to decrease health disparities and advance health equity.

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I am a registered nurse and PhD student in Nursing and Health Policy at the University of New Mexico. New Mexico is known for its depth of cultural diversity; however, this state joins the nation in experiencing negligible diversity in its health care workforce. 

I was honored with the opportunity to complete a policy internship focusing on nursing workforce diversity at the Division of Nursing of the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Bureau of Health Professions. From this experience, I gained increased awareness and resources to affect change in nursing and health care workforce diversity in New Mexico.

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May 29 2013
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The Potentiality of Increasing Diversity in the Health Professions from the Front Lines: Community Colleges

Ebbin Dotson, PhD, MHSA, is a 2011 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections grantee. He is executive director for the Health Professions Pathways Initiative at the City Colleges of Chicago. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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Defining potentiality in my line of work is an opportunity for me to influence and encourage the diversification of the health care workforce. Here at the community college where I work, we serve 120,000 students across seven campuses and seven satellite sites on a daily basis (1). More than 70 percent of these students categorize themselves as being Black and/or Hispanic (2). In addition, we have developed partnerships with more than 100 industries, four-year colleges and universities, and community‐based organizations to help connect our students to real-world educational and work opportunities (3). On this national platform discussing diversity, we have an opportunity to change the future course of health care through our investments in health science education and training at community colleges.

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As a health professions pathways researcher, it is my desire to increase the diversity of the health care workforce as a solution toward reducing health disparities. In my opinion, more minorities in the health care workforce will have a positive impact on the care provided to minority consumers of health care. Furthermore, as an RWJF New Connections grantee, it is my role to find ways to recruit and retain health professions students using pipeline programs. So what are the effective strategies that result in a diversified health care workforce?

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May 24 2013
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“It’s a Lil’ Colored Girl to See You.”

Angela Amar, PhD, RN, FAAN, is an associate professor at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University and a Robert Wood Johnson (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar. Her research focuses on traumatic experiences, especially violence, mental health responses to trauma, and aspects of forensic nursing. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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As a new nurse, I had just entered a patient’s room when he called out from the bathroom to ask his wife who was there. She replied, “it’s a lil’ colored girl to see you.” Luckily, I have a pretty good poker face and was able to not show outwardly how flustered I was inwardly. I was able to introduce myself and conduct my assessment in a professional manner. Over the next three days, I took care of this patient and as we built a relationship, he marveled and told his visitors what a great and smart nurse I was.

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While I’d like to think that I am great and smart, I happen to know that I worked on a floor full of great and smart nurses, all of whom were Caucasian. The patient commented on attributes in me that he felt were remarkable and exceptional. He didn’t conceive that ‘a lil’ colored girl’ could be great or smart until we interacted.

"We often see the benefits of diversity as being for minorities. We seldom see that the majority benefits as well."

Fast forwarding to my role as a faculty member, I’ve worked in majority serving institutions where I’m often one of two or three African American faculty members and the numbers of African American students is also small. Frequent comments on my student evaluations are: “She’s so smart. She’s really intelligent.”

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May 23 2013
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Cultural Competency Matters

Regina Stokes Offodile, MD, CHSE, is an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Education, Division of Clinical Skills and Competencies at Meharry Medical College.  She currently instructs first- and second-year medical students on clinical skills, physician patient interaction, and clinical correlations of breast disease.  Her research interests include cultural competency.  She is pursuing a Masters in Health Professions Education at Vanderbilt University. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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Cultural diversity in the health care workforce may be something that many have not thought about or considered a topic of concern.  It is a concept that health care providers, health care delivery systems, and hospitals need to have on their radar. Having a culturally diverse workforce is a matter of patient safety.  Employing a diverse workforce increases the likelihood of having employees who understand how a wide cross section of patients looks at disease, its diagnosis and treatment.  A diverse workforce may also address the language barriers and cultural disconnect that may exist in some health care delivery systems.

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In order to meet the increasing culturally diverse patrons of health care, there will be a need to have a corresponding change in the health care workforce. There will also be a burden on medical schools and residency training programs to produce culturally competent physicians, and to increase the number of physicians who are able to interact with and treat a culturally diverse patient population.

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