The Long, Winding Road: One University’s Quest for Minority Health Care Professionals and Services

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U.S. universities have created programs that seek to increase the number of minority health care professionals practicing in underserved communities. One such program, the Urban Health Program (UHP), established at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 1978, has graduated more than 5,000 members of underrepresented minorities (African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans) into the health professions from the graduate college and the colleges of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, applied health, and public health at UIC.The author provides a history and description of the UHP and an analysis of the key factors that were fundamental in creating the program and sustaining a commitment to its continuance. These factors include community action and demand for a clear and decisive legislative mandate to increase the number of minority health professionals, early outreach and academic pipeline initiatives designed to increase interest in health-related careers among underrepresented minority elementary and secondary students, changes in the culture and commitment of health professions colleges, and institutional commitment at the highest levels.The author seeks to stimulate greater awareness of the rewards, challenges, and complexities associated with maintaining such efforts; his article can serve as a primer for the creation of university programs dedicated to diversifying the health professions and the delivery of health care services.

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