School at IUPUI receives $1.9M federal grant to increase diversity in health workforce

September 3, 2015

The Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences has been awarded a three-year $1.9 million grant by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration to develop and implement the Indiana University Health Careers Opportunity Program. The initiative is designed to provide disadvantaged students with the academic and social skills to successfully graduate from health professions programs.Students participate in Doctor Camp/Camp MD, a student-led project at the IU School of Medicine

The lack of diversity in the health care workforce and low minority student enrollment in health professions programs concern policy-makers and employers because it is essential to providing culturally competent care to the nation’s burgeoning minority communities.

There is a need for an expanded educational pipeline to enhance opportunities for disadvantaged students to enroll and graduate from health professions programs and enter careers in the health professions.

 “As the nation grapples with reducing racial/ethnic disparities in health outcomes and reforming the U.S. health care system, we must take proactive steps to ensure that we have a diverse, culturally competent health care workforce," said initiative director Dr. Austin Agho, dean of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. "The goal of the IU-HCOP is to support statewide and national efforts to diversify the health care workforce by using a comprehensive community approach involving the Eskenazi Health Center, the John Boner Neighborhood Centers, Ivy Tech Community College, Crispus Attucks High School, and the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana.” 

The project will target student populations in the Indianapolis area such as veterans, adult/non-traditional learners, minorities and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

“Eskenazi Health Center is grateful to be partnering with the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences," said Dr. Mark Bustamante, Eskenazi Health Center CEO. "We highly value progress in recruiting health care workers and providers from the local communities as they are most effective at understanding and meeting the particular needs of their own communities.”

Beginning this fall, the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences will implement educational programs that will provide academic and social support for students at multiple levels (high school, associate degree, baccalaureate degree, and professional school).  The goal is to successfully prepare participants to enroll, progress, and graduate from health professions programs with a specific focus on the occupational therapy, physical therapy, and physician assistant fields.  Activities will include weekend academies, summer camps, and pre-health enrichment programs.

“This project is a great exemplar of the power community and university partners can have when they come together to address gaps in education and service,” said Dr. Andrea Pfeifle, director of the Indiana University Center for Interprofessional Health Education and Practice. “This collaborative effort will enhance the academic preparation and health careers awareness of Indiana students while also providing comprehensive support services to students enrolled in health professions programs.”

 “The John Boner Neighborhood Centers is excited to be partnering with the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences in this important work to expand health career opportunities for our near eastside neighbors,” said James Taylor, CEO of the John Boner Neighborhood Centers. “This effort supports key goals in our neighborhood’s quality-of-life plan and the recent 10-year designation of our neighborhood as a federally recognized Promise Zone known as IndyEast.”

Dr. Rebecca Rebman, director of IU’s physician assistant studies program, is the program's co-director.  She will work closely with Agho and Pfeifle to coordinate promotional activities and efforts across the program's community partners.