By Emily Domer
University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences faculty Anne Olson, PhD, CCC/A Audiologist, and Randa Remer, PhD, LPC, will be presenting at the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) virtual Diversity Pipeline Programs Community-Based Training and Practice Meeting at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The three-day forum will provide various approaches on how health care programs have addressed and worked to overcome educational, financial and cultural barriers in the workforce. Topics covered will include first-generation or non-traditional college students, students from disadvantaged backgrounds, justice-involved youth and students from rural or underserved areas.
The mission of the program is to diversify health care professions by partnering with underrepresented students, empowering them to attain their goal of entering the health care field and providing them with support and mentorship from both CHS faculty and student ambassadors.
According to a study noted in their presentation, less than 10 percent of health professionals are comprised of racial and ethnic minorities. And in In Communication Sciences & Disorders (CSD), 7.5 percent of certified speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and 7.8 percent of certified audiologists are members of a racial minority.
“We wanted to find a way to overcome the barrier of there being a gap in representation among our health care providers,” Remer said, “What we identified was that we needed to go back to the high school level, and start to make a difference in the students who were contemplating entering the health science field.”
The idea began in 2016 with an undergraduate research project that asked: What are the best practices for recruiting and retaining students from under-represented minorities into health science professions?
By fall 2016 a small working committee of students, faculty, staff was established — the Communication Sciences and Disorders – Committee on Student Diversity (CSD-CSD).
Now, the Diversity Healthcare Program will begin collaborating in full-effect with the Bryan Station High School Medical Academy this year. The academy provides its students with exposure to the health care professions along with rigorous academic preparation.
“Although the program has not yet come to full fruition, the Bryan Station Administration and student ambassadors from the academy have given us so much,” Remer said, “they are helping us to create a more well-rounded program that suits their needs.”
Through initiatives like the Diversity Healthcare Program, Olson and Remer hope to see a nation-wide increase in underrepresented minority students entering into the health care professions to close the gap in provider representation.
“We want systemic change and to be able to provide equitable care to all, so we are training our students to become familiar with experiencing cultural diversity so they can be more sensitive to these differences as a provider,” Olson said. “This is a step in the right direction.”