WINSTON-SALEM—Officials from 20 North Carolina colleges, universities, statewide organizations, as well as state and local health agencies met recently to formally create a state-wide alliance to increase minority representation in the health professions.
The new academic and state agency partnership – The North Carolina Alliance for Health Professions Diversity (The North Carolina Alliance) – aims to reduce disparities in health status and healthcare by increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the healthcare workforce in North Carolina, thereby creating a future healthcare workforce that is increasingly proficient in cross-racial and cross-cultural interactions.
Appalachian was represented by Dr. Gary H. McCullough, professor and associate dean for research and graduate education in the Donald C. Beaver College of Health Sciences.
Former U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Louis W. Sullivan, M.D., and chairman of The Sullivan Alliance to Transform the Health Professions met with representatives from the alliance membership during an event March 27 held at Winston-Salem State University, which included the signing of a memorandum of understanding.
“We are impressed that North Carolina’s Area Health Education Center, historically black colleges and universities, state universities, community colleges, and state and local health agencies have all committed to working together to create a more diverse health workforce,” Sullivan said.
“These academic, state and local health leaders clearly recognize that in the current environment, with millions more Americans securing health insurance, they still won’t have access to care unless there are more health professionals available to serve them,” Sullivan said.
“We are very excited to be able to participate in the N.C. Alliance for Health Professions Diversity,” McCullough said. “The signing ceremony was well-attended by our colleagues from other universities across the state, and people are genuinely enthusiastic about working collaboratively to build a more diverse healthcare workforce. The Sullivan Alliance has been successful in developing this type of approach in other states, and we look forward to success in North Carolina, as well.”
Participating colleges, universities and state health agencies include: Bennett College, Campbell University, Davidson Community College, East Carolina University, Elon University, UNC Greensboro, N.C. Central University, High Point University, Appalachian State University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University, Saint Augustine’s University, Western Carolina University, Winston-Salem State University, N.C. Area Health Education Center, N. C. Department of Health and Human Services, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the Forsyth County Department of Public Health.
“With so many North Carolina Alliance members working together to address the state’s shortage of health professionals, I am confident we can increase the racial and ethnic diversity of newly trained health professionals and improve access to healthcare across North Carolina,” said Dr. Peggy Valentine, North Carolina Alliance co-founder and dean of the School of Health Sciences at Winston-Salem State University.
The North Carolina Alliance was originally co-founded by Tom Bacon and Jacqueline Wynn of North Carolina Area Health Education Center and Valentine. Through this partnership, the first N.C. Health Professions Diversity Conference was in Greensboro in 2006.
More than 150 health professionals, educators, policy makers and legislators attended. The conference produced a number of recommendations to increase the representation of diverse students in health professions programs. One of the key results of the conference was the formation of a steering committee with representatives from various health professions schools, the community college system and local health organizations. The group engaged in a strategic planning process in 2010 and meets on a regular basis to dialogue on issues that affect diversity. The second North Carolina Health Professions Diversity Conference was held in 2012 in Greensboro, with more than 200 participants attending.
“We are delighted to work with colleagues from around the state to address this important issue,” Valentine added. “As our state and nation become more ethnically diverse, we will need a health professions workforce that mirrors our population in an effort to reduce health disparities.”
North Carolina is among the most diverse states in the nation, and ranks ninth in the nation with respect to the percent of African Americans (22 percent). African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos (8.9 percent), American Indians/Alaska Natives (1.6 percent), and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders (0.1 percent) constitute 32.6 percent of the state’s population. But, minorities constitute only one out of six health professionals in North Carolina.
Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and primary care providers are the two professions with diversity comparable to the statewide population (around 30 percent non-white). Nearly four out of five minority health care providers are located in metropolitan counties, thus emphasizing the need to bolster rural health care access.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA/HHS) has designated 134 primary care health professional shortage areas (HPSAs) statewide, which encompasses a population of over 1.2 million residents. Projections anticipate the need for 184 primary care providers added to the workforce to the remove the shortage designation.
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.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier, public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.
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