African-Americans represent 13 percent of the U.S. population, but they make up only 4 percent of the physician workforce, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges report, “Diversity in the Physician Workforce: Facts and Figures 2014.”
Research indicates that diversity in the physician workforce is key to improving health care throughout the nation. Physicians from racial and ethnic backgrounds underrepresented in medicine are more likely to practice primary care in impoverished and medically underserved areas.
During National Minority Health Month each April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health leads the nation in raising awareness about the inequities in health and health care among racial and ethnic minorities. Environmental, social and economic conditions can have a significant impact on an individual’s health. These social determinants lead to health disparities in communities across the nation.
Locally, Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine is working in the Dayton community to address the need for a diverse health care workforce.
In February, the Wright State Family Medicine Residency Program, the Five Rivers Family Health Center and Good Samaritan Hospital launched a mentorship program for youth ages 9 to 17 who are interested in careers in health care. The program, The Ladder Dayton, is held on the second Saturday of the month from noon to 2 p.m. at the Five Rivers Family Health Center, at 2261 Philadelphia Drive in Dayton.
“The Ladder Dayton was launched to encourage children in the neighborhood around the Wright State University Family Medicine Residency clinic, Five Rivers Family Health Center and Good Samaritan Hospital to consider a career in health care,” said Therese Zink, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the Boonshoft School of Medicine. “We want to help increase the racial and ethnic diversity of the health care workforce in order to create a sustainable pipeline of diverse future physicians and health care leaders. By doing so, we will help eliminate health disparities.”
Twenty-seven local students have gathered to talk, eat and engage in hands-on learning activities. Students have learned about how the eye works and how to examine it for a scratch. They have discussed breathing, examining real lungs and learning how it feels to have asthma by breathing through a straw. They also focused on the heart, learning how to check a pulse and count the heart rate.
More than 50 medical students and pre-health majors from Wright State and the University of Dayton have been involved in planning the Dayton program. The Broadway Family Medicine Residency Clinic in North Minneapolis, Minnesota, first developed the program. At well child visits, children are asked what they want to be when they grow up. If they respond with a career related to health, they are invited to attend the monthly Ladder meeting.
The monthly meetings consist of lining up from youngest to oldest, then counting off to break into smaller groups. During lunch, the groups discuss two quotes pertinent to the topic and what they mean to each person. Then there are three hands-on educational stations for activities and fun related to the health and wellness theme of the month.
The Ladder Dayton is now one of the six chapters located in urban communities across the United States. For more information, contact 937-985-0171 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit facebook.com/theladderdayton.