SOM Office of Cultural and Ethnic Programs Receives $1.2-million Grant to Recruit and Mentor Health Professions Students from Disadvantaged Areas

The University of New Mexico School of Medicine Office of Cultural and Ethnic Programs has received a $1.2 million grant to fund the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration Bureau of Health of Professions, Division of Health Professions Diversity (HRSA).

New Mexico's economically and educationally disadvantaged population is overwhelmingly Hispanic, American Indian and rural white. Through the HCOP program, students will become more prepared to apply to health professional schools and present more competitive applications.

HCOP Principal Investigator is Roberto Gomez, M.D., Associate Dean of Cultural and Ethnic Programs. Carol Miller will serve as HCOP Director and Terri Nicholson as HCOP Program Coordinator.

Three distinct and interrelated challenges intersect in New Mexico to underscore the importance of this HCOP proposal and institutional commitment to the short and long term educational and community needs for health professionals: geography, poverty, and educational disparities.

New Mexico is the fifth largest state in the United States yet 31 of New Mexico's 33 counties are designated as Health Profession Shortage Areas and at least half of the state's population live in rural communities.

The last of the significant challenges to New Mexico is the tremendous loss of human potential through a dropout rate of more than half of the state's middle school, high school and college disadvantaged students. These are students who would add to the pool of potential health professionals for New Mexico communities.

Disadvantaged students face major educational barriers ranging from a lack of exposure to and knowledge of health career options to low ACT and MCAT scores. The grant will provide support to students - from the middle-school level through participation in professional educational programs.

Middle school students will be supported through the establishment of Pre-Health Clubs and workshops to expose them to various health career options. A Health Careers Academy will be established where high school students can work toward increasing their ACT scores.

The program will also select 25 disadvantaged students each year to participate in the Undergraduate Health Sciences Enrichment Program (UHSEP), an eight-week summer program designed to develop academic and survival skills needed by those interested in health professional education.

UNM Health care professionals and students will provide mentoring to UHSEP participants, with Associate Dean Gomez providing counseling and advisement to UHSEP participants throughout their college career. Dr. Gomez will also mentor each Post-Baccalaureate Program participant. Tutorial support will be available to each student during the academic year.

School of Medicine Dean, Dr. Paul Roth, established the Office of Cultural and Ethnic Programs (OCEP) in 1994 to:

· Recruit qualified Hispanic, American Indian, Black and rural Anglo students to careers in medicine;

· Retain and promote academic excellence in Hispanic, American Indian, Black and rural Anglo School of Medicine students;

· Develop culturally sensitive curriculum addressing the health care challenges of New Mexico's unique and diverse communities;

· Support and develop research reflective of the health care needs of Hispanic, American Indian, Black and rural Anglo communities.

· Recruit, retain and promote faculty that is reflective of New Mexico.

Over the last 25 years, the UNM SOM has graduated 1700 physicians, of these 275 are Hispanic; 160 of the 275 Hispanic physicians have remained in New Mexico. In the course of 25 years, 19 American Indians have graduated from the UNM SOM: 11 practice in New Mexico and one is the Director of the U.S. Indian Health Service.

Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322

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