CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University recently joined 19 North Carolina universities, colleges, organizations and health agencies in the creation of a new statewide alliance designed to increase minority representation in the health professions.
Called the North Carolina Alliance for Health Professions Diversity, the partnership between academic institutions and state agencies will work to reduce disparities in health status and health care by increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the state’s health care workforce.
Representatives from the participating schools and organizations came together March 27 at Winston-Salem State University to sign a memorandum of understanding launching the new alliance. Rebecca Lasher, assistant professor of social work, represented WCU at the signing ceremony.
Louis W. Sullivan, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and chairman of the Sullivan Alliance to Transform the Health Professions, said he was impressed to see the commitment of the state’s Area Health Education Center organizations, historically black colleges and universities, campuses of the University of North Carolina system, community colleges, and state and local health agencies to work together to create a more diverse health workforce.
“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.
Doug Keskula, dean of WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, said the North Carolina Alliance brings statewide emphasis to the issue of an insufficiently diverse workforce in health care fields, a concern that WCU is working to address regionally through a pair of $1 million federal grants awarded since 2013.
“We in the College of Health and Human Sciences have made it a priority to do all that we can to help improve the diversity and quality of nursing care provided to patients in rural Western North Carolina,” Keskula said. “We are pleased to become a part of this important new state alliance.”
Among the goals of the alliance, Keskula said, are:
* Establish collaborative strategies designed to expand the pipeline of diverse, fully prepared and qualified candidates for health professions schools through the early identification, cultivation and mentoring of students in high school, community colleges, four-year institutions and professional schools.
* Promote administrative and programmatic mechanisms to build collaborations and partnerships, expand relationships and share intellectual talent and technical expertise among the faculty of the alliance’s institutions.
* Identify and implement collaborative strategies to increase faculty diversity in alliance institutions and reduce racial and cultural disparities in the health care workforce.
* Identify and pursue funding strategies for resources – including infrastructure, training and enhancement opportunities for students and faculty – to enhance the educational environment of the alliance institutions.
* Collect data to enable the alliance to measure progress under the memorandum of understanding; record alliance activities and track the career and educational outcomes of participating students and faculty; and identify and promote promising strategies and best practices.
* Reach out to additional partners as the alliance develops, including community colleges and other institutions with high minority enrollments.
The alliance also brings members together to plan a statewide health care diversity conference to be held in Greensboro on Aug. 27 and 28, said Sharon Metcalfe, associate professor of nursing, who is serving on a committee that is planning the upcoming conference.
In addition to WCU, participating colleges, universities and agencies include Bennett College, Campbell University, Davidson Community College, East Carolina University, Elon University, University of North Carolina Greensboro, North Carolina Central University, High Point University, Appalachian State University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University, St. Augustine’s 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.
Creation of the alliance comes as WCU’s School of Nursing and its Nursing Network-Careers in Technology Mentoring Program will host their second annual nursing diversity conference in Asheville on Friday, April 24. The conference, “Supporting Academic Success for Diverse and Minority Students,” will address issues involved in increasing the number of underrepresented ethnic minority and disadvantaged background students entering the field of nursing.
Info: www.nursinged.wcu.edu or WCU’s Office of Continuing and Professional Education (828) 227-7397