December 2005

Volume 25 | Number 4

Special Theme: Diversity in the Health Professions

The Special Theme Issue, Diversity in the Health Professions, describes several pre-professional programs designed to increase diversity in the health care work force. “Why Health Professions for Diversity Coalition?” describes the need for, the mission of, and the strategies being used by this organization. “The New Summer Medical and Dental Education Program” describes a successful pre-medical program that has recently expanded to encourage greater diversity in dentistry as well. “Critical Partners”, although not summarized below, identifies advisors as key players in the success of the aforementioned program. Finally, three articles highlight efforts to boost diversity in specific professions: dentistry, public health, and veterinary medicine.

Why Health Professions for Diversity Coalition? Why Now?
Geraldine Bednash, Ph.D, R.N.
Moraith G. North
Marian Osterweis, Ph.D.
Jeanne Sinkford, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Charles Terrell, Ed.D.
Richard Valachovic, D.M.D., M.P.H.

After presenting basic demographic information and projections, the authors reiterate a well-documented concern that serious disparities exist in our health care system. Beyond the issues of income and access to insurance, some racial and ethnic groups receive lower quality care because of the way decisions are made about treatment and referrals, cultural and language factors, and systemic bias. The Health Professions for Diversity (HPD) Coalition, originally formed to fight anti-affirmative action initiatives, has refocused its mission to promote diversity in health care. To support this mission, the HPD will document the need for diversity through research, will conduct campaigns to raise awareness, will lobby for political solutions, will share best practices, and will encourage collaboration with other organizations. The authors believe that HPD is well positioned to accomplish these goals because its membership is already diverse, it has a sound infrastructure which includes a website and an e-newsletter, and has sufficient resources to engage in specific projects. Involvement is open to everyone and the newsletter, HPD Digest, is available by request from

The New Summer Medical and Dental Education Program: A New Effort by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to Diversify Medicine and Dentistry
Douglas P. Merrill, Ph.D.
Jeremiah L. Putnam, Ph.D.

A Report from the NAAHP Liaison to the American Dental Association
C. Larry Sullivan, Ph.D.

Written by two experienced advisors, this article highlights a well-established, successful, and recently expanded program to increase diversity in health care. The Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, supports 6-week intensive summer programs for talented students from underrepresented minorities and disadvantaged backgrounds at twelve professional schools. Although the programs are not identical, they do have some common features. Typically, they enroll 80 students (60 pre-medical, 20 pre-dental) in their first two years of college with minimum, yet reasonable, grades and scores. Features of the programs include lectures to enhance the academic foundation, development of test taking skills, career exploration through shadowing and individual counseling. Students establish a network of professionals, develop confidence through a supportive environment, and make friends with peers experiencing similar challenges. Typically, the program covers all expenses.

Critical Partners: The Role of Health Professions Advisors in the Success of the Summer Medical Education Program Recruitment Efforts
Kevin Harris, M.S.A.

The ADA's Commitment to Diversity in Dentistry
Beverly Skoog, M.A.

Ms. Skoog identifies four ways in which the American Dental Association (ADA) is trying to increase diversity in dentistry. To increase general knowledge about the career, the ADA plans to increase the number of pre-dental clubs working with minority student dental groups. An effort to provide better mentoring is expected to increase the exposure to a dental career. Partnerships, such as those with Explorer Posts and local dental societies, will promote career awareness. The Institute for Diversity in Leadership Program supports twelve dentists with workshop style leadership training and requires participants to design and carry out a personal leadership project related to dental career awareness. Each of the twelve projects from the 2004 participants is described briefly.

Schools of Public Health and American Indian/Alaska Native Communities
Mah Sere Keita Sow, M.P.H.

American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) populations have acute public health needs that are not being adequately addressed despite good representation of AI/AN in public health schools. A task force of Tribal leaders and public health deans concluded that the overall goal should be to develop collaborations between schools of public health and AI/AN communities. To recruit more public health students they identified the most effective methods as: scholarships and fellowships, visibility at major recruitment venues, collaboration with Tribal schools, fee waivers for graduate school applications, and advertising in “Winds of Change” magazine.

Recruiting a Diverse Veterinary Student Body
Ronnie G. Elmore, D.V.M., M.S., D.A.C.T.

Minorities are seriously underrepresented in the field of veterinary medicine and in veterinary education programs. Originally thought to be the result of inadequate recruitment, it is now believed that the lack of diversity results from several factors: differences in animal ownership, cultural and racial biases toward animals, expected income, and absence of minority role models. Low rates of pet ownership among racial minorities result in less exposure to animals. Exposure to veterinarians is also considerably lower, yet applicants are expected to have substantial veterinary experience. The typically higher incomes commanded by human medicine tend to be more attractive to the minority population considering a medical career. Dr. Elmore believes that the largely untapped pool of minority candidates may alleviate the anticipated shortage of veterinarians.

Diversity: A Missing Link to Professionalism
Marie A. Chisholm, Pharm.D.


Opportunities and Challenges: Advising the Millennial Generation
Denise D. Gibson, Ph.D., L.I.S.W.
Carol L. Elam, Ed.D.

The authors describe a number of defining characteristics about the Millennial generation of college students and how those characteristics may be viewed as both assets and challenges. Among the characteristics discussed were feeling special, goal achieving, team orientation, structured, conventional, technological savvy, diversity, and civic spirit. While these characteristics may be strengths, they also may manifest themselves as weaknesses. Feeling special may become an entitlement. Goal achieving may quickly become frustration when the goal is not easily attained. Millennials are good at doing things and multitasking, but are not so adept at self-reflection. The team oriented, technologically savvy student may struggle with individuality and ambiguity. Practical suggestions are offered for dealing with the challenging aspects of these students and changes that advisors might consider to work more effectively with this group.

Research Article

Academic Preparation for Medical School: What Second Year Medical Students Perceive to be Important
Kerry L. Cheesman, Ph.D.
KT Mechlin, M.S.
Peggy Abels, M.S.
Jeanne Barnett, Ph.D.
Marivern Easton, M.A.
Ian Cheesman

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