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Robin H Carle
, Samantha Edwards

Fourteen Alabama colleges and universities form alliance to increase minority enrollment, representation in the health professions

Birmingham, AL (January 28, 2013) – Former HHS Secretary and Chairman of The Sullivan Alliance to Transform the Health Professions, Louis W. Sullivan, M.D. recently met with presidents and other senior officials from Alabama colleges and universities to create a state-wide alliance to increase minority representation in the health professions. The new academic partnership – The Alabama Alliance to Transform the Health Professions (The Alabama Alliance) – aims to implement innovative models of recruitment and training in order to address the need for more racial and ethnic diversity among Alabama’s health professionals.

By the official ceremony on January 11, held on the University of Alabama at Birmingham campus, fourteen colleges and universities had signed the Memorandum of Understanding. “We are impressed that so many of Alabama’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the University of Alabama (UAB) School of Medicine have committed to working together to create a more diverse health workforce,” said Dr. Sullivan who will serve as the Honorary Chair of The Alabama Alliance.

“These academic leaders clearly recognize that in the current environment, as 30 million more Americans secure health insurance, they still won’t have access to care unless there are more health professionals available.”

Participating universities include: Alabama A&M, Alabama State University,Auburn University, Birmingham Southern College, J. F. Drake State Technical College, Lawson State Community College,Miles College, Oakwood University, Selma University, Stillman College, Trenholm State Technical College, Troy University, Tuskegee University and University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Dr. Ray L. Watts, Dean and Senior Vice President for Medicine at UAB’s School of Medicine and Dr. Bill Harris, President of Alabama State University, will co-chair The Alabama Sullivan Alliance.

"With the members of our new Alabama Alliance working together to address the state’s shortage of health professionals, I am confident an increase in the racial and ethnic diversity of newly-trained health professionals and improved access to healthcare across our state is possible,” said President Harris.

Alabama is among the twenty most diverse states in the nation, and ranks sixth with respect to percent African Americans (26.5 percent). African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and Native Americans constitute 32.5 percent of the state’s population.But in Alabama, these historically underrepresented minorities in medicine (URMs) constitute only 5.5 percent of active physicians (3.6 percent African Americans and 1.9 percent Hispanics). This is significantly lower than the 8.6 percent of URMs among physicians in the nation.

In addition, a large number of medical professionals are reaching retirement age. More than one half of all actively practicing primary care physicians in Alabama are aged 50 years or more. It has been estimated that the number of annual office visits to primary care physicians in Alabama will increase by more than 1,785,000 by the year 2025 – primarily due to the aging of Alabama’s population. Over 904,000 of these additional office visits will involve rural physicians. This increase does not consider such factors as obesity. Nearly one third of all adult Alabamians are obese, not simply overweight.

About the Sullivan Alliance to Transform the Health Professions

Under the leadership of Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Sullivan Alliance to Transform the Health Professions was organized in January 2005, to act on the reports and recommendations of the Sullivan Commission (Missing Persons: Minorities in the Health Professions, September, 2004), and the Institute of Medicine Committee on Institutional and Policy-Level Strategies for Increasing the Diversity of the U.S. Healthcare Workforce (In the Nation’s Compelling Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce). The Alliance’s goal is to provide the focused leadership, deep commitment, and sustainable efforts that will result in the addition to our nation’s workforce of more well-trained health professionals from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds able to provide quality health care and innovative research in the decades ahead.

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