Preserving a Diverse Health Workforce

Elena Rios

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.

Expanding Choice Through Change

Michelle McMurry

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.

Remember Harry and Louise? Sitting at their kitchen table, the nondescript couple burst onto the national stage in a 1993 television commercial that deftly attacked Bill Clinton’s proposed health care plan and made even those of us committed to universal health insurance afraid of its consequences.

I can’t recall the lines Harry and Louise used, but 15 years later I remember the message: America is built on choice, health reform will take away that choice, and if we pursue the proposed reforms we’ll deeply regret it. Then a medical student, I was convinced (albeit naively) that we should have a healthcare system like those of our European counterparts. I was seeing many, many patients who had waited too long to visit the emergency room because they didn’t have insurance – and the accompanying detritus of medical neglect. But I was moved by Harry and Louise. I am not a person who is easily swayed, and yet their message made sense to me. It put a chink in the ideological armor of the left that persists even now.

Today, as we think about how to pursue smart and sustainable healthcare reform, we would do well to remember that Americans – myself included – like to get something in return for their money. And we like to have meaningful choices. As we try to make the system better, let’s not sacrifice choice. In fact, expanding choice is actually the best rationale for reform. We like to think they have choice in our current system, but there are a myriad of choices that are made for us before we even walk into the doctor’s office or taken away from us after a decision is made. (more…)

Defining the next revolution for women, work and family

Madeleine Kunin

During these last days of the summer, we here at Disruptive Women are reflecting on posts near when we first launched—it’s fascinating to see how far we’ve come and where we still have to goto pushto Disrupt.  After all, a woman’s work is never done. We originally published this post on June 19, 2012.

The New Feminist Agenda, defining the next revolution for women, work and familyby Madeleine Kunin. Trying to “do it all” takes a toll on women’s health. And men’s health too.  Surprisingly, more men than women report feeling work life stress.

It’s time to take a serious look at how we expect families to combine work and family without jeopardizing their health  in today’s predominantly two-wage earner family.  In my book, “The New Feminist Agenda, defining the next revolution for women, work and family,” published on Mother’s Day (reviewed the same day in  The New York Times Book Review on the front cover)  I lay out an agenda that would enable working families to be both  healthier providers and caregivers.

I was on a radio talk show Monday morning, emanating from Miami, Florida, and one of the callers explained that she has a job, recently had her second child, her husband is helpful, but all she feels in guilt. She would like to spend more time with her children, but she can’t because she is working.  “Does anyone else feel this way?” she asked.

I assured her that as a mother of four children who had a political career, I knew exactly what she was talking about.

When I wrote my first book, Living a Political life, my editor at Knopf told me, “You’ve got to cut out some of the guilt in the manuscript. “ I cut some of it out of the book, but I haven’t cut it completely out of my life.


Women as Agents of Change in Global Development

Julie PotyrajIn her second article of The “Women As Agents of Change” series, Julie Potyraj looks into how women across the world are working to reduce maternal mortality.

Even though many global health initiatives focus on issues related to women’s health, and though women make up the majority people working in the field, global health is predominantly led by men. Many global health funding agencies have a noticeable lack of female leadership throughout their histories. But can male-led organizations lead to the type of improvements in women’s health that the world so desperately needs?

Studies have shown that women in leadership positions in governmental organizations are more likely than their male counterparts to implement policies that are supportive of women and children. In 2003, women won nearly 50 percent of the lower house of parliament seats in Rwanda. Though they faced obstacles, these women started a dialogue about the importance of women’s empowerment, initiated pro-child legislation, and prioritized the needs of women and children in the budget. We’re also starting to see that increasing women’s leadership in global health is directly connected with improvements in health outcomes for women and children. In India, for example, there was a 1.5 percent reduction in neonatal mortality rates for every one standard deviation increase in women’s political representation at the district council level. Essentially, as the number of women in government increased, the rates of neonatal mortality decreased. (more…)

Diabetes – Who’s in Control?

Terri Prof Headshot 0412

Terri L. McCulloch

It’s #TBT here at Disruptive Women in Health Care. And today we throw it back to diabetes.  In her post shared below, Terri lays out for us the challenges of a teenage girl developing a relationship with the care and knowledge of her diabetes and how she ultimately came to understand its place in her life. This post was originally published November 12, 2015.

What if you had no control over what you ate, when you ate, how much energy you had, or what you weigh? What if, on top of this, you had to test your blood 6 times a day and give yourself injections, carrying around your supplies constantly so you would be ready no matter what else was going on in your life? Now, throw in that you are 15 and just want to be normal, like everyone else, eating pizza when you feel like it and going wherever you wanted?

Kimberly Young was that teenager. She, likes hundreds of thousands of other American teenagers, has type 1 diabetes. Diagnosed at the age of 4, she was never like other kids. She always felt that her diabetes controlled her life. She didn’t have the carefree lifestyle of a teenager. Kimberly had to grow up more quickly than her friends as the realization that what she ate, how active she was and how closely she monitored her blood glucose had long term impacts on her health. Having too much pizza wasn’t about just gaining the “freshman 10” (or 20!) when she was in college, it was about maintaining her vision and her circulation to prevent serious complications. She learned that, “There is no vacation from diabetes. You live with it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no matter where you go or what you go.” (more…)

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