Symposium Highlights Need for Diversity in Health Professions

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON

Organizers of a health professions symposium on diversity last month placed considerable emphasis on education reform and minority academic achievement research. As a result, nationally recognized scholars and higher education officials urged nearly 300 symposium participants to familiarize themselves with academic achievement research and to get involved in education reform initiatives.

Convening the "Symposium on Diversity in the Health Professions in Honor of Dr. Herbert W. Nickens," the Institute of Medicine and the American Association of Medical Colleges paid significant attention to the systemic educational issues that undermine the push to draw Blacks, Latinos and American Indians into the health professions.

"We believe that diversity is critical to having a quality health care system in this country," says Dr. Jordan Cohen, president of the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).

The symposium honored the legacy of the late Nickens, who served as the first vice president and director of AAMC's division of Community and Minority programs. Nickens, who died in 1999, gained widespread recognition for having led the organization's "Project 3000 by 2000," an initiative to increase the numbers of underrepresented minorities in medical schools. Although the initiative did not reach its goal of 3,000 underrepresented minorities as first-year medical students by the year 2000, the effort resulted in significant minority enrollment jumps in the early 1990s. The initiative also helped jumpstart a broad-based diversity in health professions campaign in the mid-1990s.

Many scholars and officials have supported affirmative action and K-12 outreach programs to increase the numbers of underrepresented minorities because it's widely believed that diversity among health professionals improves the quality of health care.

"Since the post-Civil War period, minority medical training has been discussed and debated as a way to address the health needs of largely underserved areas. Increasing the numbers of minority physicians in practice may help ameliorate racial and ethnic disparities in health through a number of pathways," according to a symposium paper co-authored by Dr. David Carlisle, Dr. Diana Tisnado and Dr. Raynard Kington.

THE BIG PICTURE

Among those scholars and higher education leaders, urging a broad look at minority achievement and access to education, were Lee Bollinger, president of the University of Michigan; Dr. …