Health Care, Higher Education, and Human Resources

Grant focuses on disparity in health care careers

June 28, 2018
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GRAAHI Shannon Wilson
Shannon Wilson. Courtesy GRAAHI

An organization focused on minorities’ health care is working with seven colleges to reduce barriers that keep people of color from pursuing health care professions.

The Grand Rapids African American Health Institute is creating “Pathways to Careers in Healthcare,” funded by a $400,000 planning grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Participating schools include Aquinas College, Calvin College, Davenport University, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University and Hope College.

“This is by far the most influential grant we have received,” said Shannon Wilson, executive director of GRAAHI. “It has the potential to change how medical care is delivered in Grand Rapids, and by whom. We can reduce disparities in health care when our health care workforce mirrors the diversity of our community.”

Wilson cited studies that show white workers represent the majority of health occupations and are usually overrepresented, while black and Hispanic works are typically underrepresented.

She also cited the Institute of Medicine and the Sullivan Commission, which in 2004 identified the lack of minorities in the health workforce as contributing to unequal access and quality of care.

“Creating an equitable pipeline to employment, education and health care is essential to improving the lives and futures of children in our communities — particularly children of color,” said Kellogg Foundation President and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron. “This kind of active partnership and collaboration involving so many local institutions holds the potential for engaging and preparing a health care workforce of the future, one that reflects the community it serves.”

The project has three overarching goals: diversity in health care professions to mirror community diversity by 2040; establish a cadre of African American and Latino health care leaders in West Michigan; and create early exposure programs to advance health care practice careers throughout the K-12 experience.

During the program, GRAAHI staff will explore the facilitators and barriers to entering the health care professions through targeted interviews, focus groups, and document and literature reviews.

The team will engage with a designated representative at each school and a cohort of incoming first-year students, parents, high school counselors, and college and academic advisors.

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