During these last days of summer, we here at Disruptive Women are reflecting on posts from when we first launched—it’s fascinating to see how far we’ve come and where we still have to go—to push—to Disrupt. After all, a woman’s work is never done. We originally published this post on September 25, 2008.
As a leader from the Hispanic community with supportive parents and counselors and with a stellar academic background, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in the Federal Health Careers Opportunity Program (PHS Title VII) – not only to be a program coordinator for a local CBO (East LA Health Task Force, 1980), but as a pre-med student from Stanford University who had not completed the pre-med curriculum upon graduation, I was appointed to an HCOP post-bac program (Creighton University, 1981) and was accepted into UCLA Medical School in 1982 where I served as a counselor for minority premed students for the State of California HCOP program. I know several Latino physicians and public health professionals who benefited from this program and wouldn’t be where they are if it hadn’t been for this program. HCOP has been the major recruitment program for disadvantaged students to enter medicine and public health careers – until the Federal government decided to decimate it in 2006. Now with the current physician and public health workforce shortage along with the tremendous growth in the diversity of the U.S. population, this program should be brought back to its 2005 funding level. In addition, I believe there should be a regional approach to workforce planning and implementation, so that programs in regions with large Hispanic populations target their efforts to bring Hispanic students into the region’s medical and public health schools. The next President needs to understand the importance of having a diverse health care workforce – the literature has shown that Hispanic and African American physicians and dentists generally care for more minority, Medicaid and uninsured patients – the most vulnerable patients in our society, and those who, without health care, tend to be the sickest with the greatest health care costs to the nation.