School of Rural Public Health Dean Appointed to National Institutional and Policy Strategies for Increasing the Diversity of the U.S. Health Care Workforce

December 17, 2002

School of Rural Public Health Dean Appointed to National Institutional and Policy Strategies for Increasing the Diversity of the U.S. Health Care Workforce
Ciro V. Sumaya, M.D., M.P.H.T.M., dean of the School of Rural Public Health (SRPH), part of The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center, was appointed to a new study committee that will examine diversity in the health care workforce. The National Academies Institute of Medicine (IOM) in Washington, D.C., at the request of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, created a national study committee to examine and recommend the institutional and policy strategies for increasing the diversity of the U.S. health care workforce. The committee plans to focus on the areas of medicine, dentistry, nursing and mental health since they are among the largest professions (while realizing that most of the issues cut across the other health professions as well).
Diversity, also a topic of much discussion in higher education and legislative circles right now, is a major focus in health care. According to the IOM, some U.S. racial and ethnic minorities continue to be underrepresented among health care professionals. Contributing to this issues could be factors such as state referenda and federal circuit court decisions. Rather than studying ways to interest students in pursuing health careers, the study committee will focus on institutional and policy-level factors, “upstream” factors, in hopes that they will cause changes at the lower levels.
Policy level issues include admissions practices, accreditation, financing and funding of health training and expanding community benefit requirements to allow nonprofit organizations to consider training as a benefit.
Appropriate to the topic, Sumaya is the dean of a school of public health that boasts the second highest number of Hispanic minority students, second only to the University of Puerto Rico School of Public Health. The number of African American students at SRPH also approximates that of the Texas population. “We are committed to diversity in our student body,” said Sumaya. “It is important to reflect the makeup of the state of Texas, which is our constituency. As important, increasing the number of minority health care providers means a great chance of increasing access to quality care for minorities as well, thereby benefitting the community as a whole.” Sumaya has previously been involved in various state and national efforts to diversify the health professions, particularly through leadership roles in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the 1993 presidential-initiated task force on health care reform.
The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its five components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology and the School of Rural Public Health.

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