African Americans and many other minority groups suffer from early death for many medical conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected communities of color much more as do conditions like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer. It is estimated that over 250 African Americans die prematurely each day. These early deaths are due to many factors. These include education, employment, housing, health insurance and more. We call these the social determinants of health. These social factors are unevenly divided. It is not by accident. The unequal resources or services to different communities are due to what is called structural racism.
The lack of good schools, employment, housing, health insurance and more leads to worse health. One way to address this health crisis is to have more African Americans and other minorities become doctors and researchers. Like many other areas in society, there are currently too few African American and other minority doctors and researchers. The medical and health sciences lag in the recruitment and advancement of African American and other minority students. What needs to be done to get more of us into medicine and science?
As a society we need to advocate for and vote for elected officials dedicated to changing how K-12 education is funded in our country. Communities with less deserve more support, not less support for their schools. And we need role models and support for our students. There are many programs designed to support students to enter medicine and science. The largest program in the nation is called the Diversity Program Consortium. It is funded through the National Institutes of Health. It was created in 2014.
One goal of the Diversity Program Consortium is to figure out the best ways to support minority students so as to help them succeed in medicine and science. The program seeks to implement, assess and disseminate innovative and effective approaches to engaging, training and mentoring students; enhancing faculty development; and strengthening institutional research training infrastructure to enhance the participation and persistence of individuals from underrepresented backgrounds in biomedical research careers.
Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) consists of ten minority serving schools across the country from the University of Alaska to Morgan State. It includes two local schools, Cal State University, Long Beach and Cal State University, Northridge. Each school is looking at the best ways to help students from diverse backgrounds succeed in the health sciences. BUILD differs from other NIH grants. The ten schools are looking at issues ranging from bias and discrimination, to financial support and family support, and more. And they’re looking at many of these at the level of the student, the faculty and the institutional leaders at the same time.
The National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) is the second major part of the Diversity Program Consortium. NRMN provides mentorship and professional development for faculty. It also provides culturally sensitive training for faculty. This will help faculty relate better to minority students. The faculty should also have more respect for the journey many students of color have to travel to get to college.
Coordination and Evaluation Center (CEC) is the third major part of the Diversity Program Consortium. The CEC is based at UCLA. It is responsible for coordinating and evaluating the Diversity Program Consortium activities. The CEC helps the BUILD schools work together. It collects the results of each of their programs. The CEC will spread the findings to other schools. The Diversity Program Consortium is what many people call a health science pipeline program. The goal is to make sure all schools understand how to best support minority and low-income students interested in the health sciences to succeed in college. That includes going to graduate schools to become a medical or research doctor.
For additional information about the Diversity Program Consortium, please visit, https://diversityprogramconsortium.org/pages/