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North Carolina Alliance going strong, holding health professions diversity conference

By Peggy Valentine and Jacqueline Wynn, Co-Founders and Co-Directors of the North Carolina Alliance for Health Professions Diversity (NCAHPD)

NCAHPDEach of our State Alliances has been developed by leaders who understand the unique strengths and particular needs of their state’s citizens as well as the varied educational, business, governmental and local communities’ priorities. Yet, for the many differences in state and regional environments, we find there are many common interests and barriers experienced by our leaders. This month we highlight some of the activities of our North Carolina Alliance, NCAHPD. The enthusiasm, activities and continued expansion of this community of leaders is making a difference in our collective efforts to improve the diversity and equity within our nation’s health workforce. Thank You!

We are happy to report that the North Carolina Alliance is going strong. We hold quarterly meetings at member schools, which are preceded with a 2-hour continuing education session that informs us of the diversity work happening on that campus. During the past two years, we have visited Western Carolina, High Point, East Carolina, UNC Wilmington, UNC Greensboro East Carolina, and Duke University. Our shared commitment to a diverse health professions workforce is strong, emanating from the President/Chancellor level, Chief Academic Officers, Chief Diversity Officer, faculty and staff. On average, 25 to 30 alliance representatives attend our meetings where we have learned how each institution is creatively responding to the desire to increase diversity among their student body and faculty. In some cases, alliance members have offered advice on addressing problems encountered. In addition to quarterly meetings, the NC Alliance has maintained an up-to-date website which features state-wide Summer Enrichment Programs for High School and College students who are interested in pursuing a health career. If you are interested in a career in healthcare, please check out our site to plan your summer!

We are pleased to announce an exciting conference being planned by our active alliance members. The fourth biennial conference of the NC Alliance will be held on March 22-24, 2017 at the Grandover Hotel in Greensboro, NC. We hope you can join us! The theme of this year’s conference is “Closing the Gaps: Exploring Evidence-Based Practices to Enhance Health Professions Diversity.” This three-day event will showcase best practice models and strategies that have proven successful in recruiting and retaining students in health professional programs as well as maintaining a diverse workforce setting. The audience is expected to include faculty of state-wide higher education institutions, state-wide health officials, and representatives from various health organizations, as well as college students who desire to network and increase their knowledge on health professions diversity.

The first day of the conference is dedicated to a recruitment seminar for health professions students and advisers. Community-college students will attend and meet faculty of various university health programs to learn more about admission requirements. The following two days will include keynote presentations and panel discussions by leaders in higher education and the healthcare industry. There will be a competitive poster presentation session for students with prizes and opportunities for networking and collaborating with others around the state. All conference participants will receive a copy of the Journal of Best Practices in Health Professions Diversity: Research, Education and Policy. During the conference, we will be signing additional organizations to the alliance. We could potentially reach 25 members.

The work of the NC Alliance continues to be important. The racial/ethnic diversity of North Carolina’s health care professionals falls short of matching the state’s population diversity. According to 2014 report on Diversity in the Health Professions by researchers at the Sheps Center, white providers made up more than 80% of licensed health professionals in the state, yet they represented 64% of the population. The underrepresentation was worse for blacks who comprised 22% of the state’s population. Only in the LPN workforce is the group overrepresented. As the AAMC noted in 2015, fewer blacks enrolled in medical school that year than in 1978. It is concerning to note the slower growth especially among black physicians. While we celebrate the increase among African American female physicians, it is important to encourage the growth among males. There is also the opportunity to promote health professions diversity among the growing Hispanic groups which now comprises 9% of the population. Although relatively young, this population represents less than 3% of all health professionals in the state.

We appreciate this opportunity to highlight work of the North Carolina Alliance and invite interested parties to attend our quarterly meetings -- and the upcoming biennial conference. We hope to see you in March!

Diversity Overview of Population and Selected Health Professions, NC, 2014

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