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Building the Health Professions Pathway

High school student using large touch screen computer.

Why It Matters

Patients increasingly will receive care from providers who come from their communities and have the cultural competencies needed to understand and address complex factors that may be affecting their health and impacting the efficacy of their treatment.

Austin-area middle and high school students will be supported in their education about and preparation for health care professions, increasing career opportunities for them and building a diverse health care ecosystem for their communities and for the Dell Med pathway.

Defining the Problem

Those who have been traditionally underrepresented within the health professions, especially as doctors — members of the Black and African-American, Latinx, Southeast Asian, first-generation college student and LGBTQ+ communities — remain underrepresented.

Because of this, the health care system often lacks providers with the cultural competencies that members of these communities share. The gap negatively impacts patient outcomes. Without key cultural competencies, health professionals can struggle to develop trust with their patients and may overlook problems related to understanding, adhering to or following up with treatment. In addition, the American Medical Association says diversity within the profession helps those in the field better address and reduce health disparities.

But the professions suffer from a “pathway problem.” They need more qualified students from underrepresented groups entering all levels — from EMTs and certified nursing assistants to registered nurses, physician’s assistants and doctors. Students from traditionally underrepresented groups often are unaware of the varied career opportunities that exist in the health professions, and they lack the educational opportunities needed even at the middle- and high-school levels that can help lead them on the pathways to those careers.

Medical School Graduates

How Big Is the Gap?

According to the AAMC’s Diversity in Medical Education report, in 2015, only six percent of medical school graduates were Black; only five percent were Latinx.

At Dell Med, 16 percent of students in the first two classes identify with a race or ethnicity underrepresented in medicine. Six percent are Black, and 10 percent are Latinx.

What Dell Med Is Doing

Since 2015, Dell Med hosts middle and high school Health Sciences Summer Camps to expose youth to opportunities in the health professions. Nearly all students are referred to the camps by their school counselors or a teacher. Once at camp, they are mentored by pre-med undergraduate students and gain insights into the day-to-day lives of health care professionals, including paramedics, pharmacists, ultrasonographers, echocardiographers, physical therapists, athletic trainers, RNs and physicians across a variety of specialties. The camps prepare and inspire participants to pursue the rigorous educational path of the health professions.

Following the summer are two year-long programs offered in participating schools. The first is a 22-week course that prepares high-school students for emergency medical responder certification after graduation. The second is a monthly course that includes chemistry lectures taught by an instructor from The University of Texas at Austin, career presentations, clinical simulations, study skills training and SAT preparation courses.

To offer these programs, Dell Med is partnered with eight Austin-area and Travis County school districts: Austin, Del Valle, Pflugerville, Eanes, Lake Travis, Leander and Round Rock independent school districts, plus IDEA Public Schools and Texas Empowerment Academy. It will expand the partnership to KIPP Public Schools and Manor Independent School District in summer 2018.

Summer Camps Attendance

Who Attends the Camps

Dell Med’s Health Science Summer Camps bring opportunity to students from communities traditionally underrepresented in the health professions: 42 percent identify as Latinx, between nine and 13 percent are Black; and one percent are Native American. Forty percent of campers speak a language other than English. Thirty-two percent of participants will be first-generation college students.

More than 80 percent of high-school campers report that they are more likely to pursue a health science career as a result of the experience.