Campus News

Hope among Seven Area Colleges Partnering with GRAAHI to Reduce Racial Disparities in Health Care Employment

Hope College is among seven colleges and universities partnering with the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute to create “Pathways to Careers in Healthcare” for area students of color.

The initiative is funded by a $400,000 planning grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek.  Hope, Aquinas College, Calvin College, Davenport University, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University will each participate in the study to develop “college-specific” plans of action to engage students of color in reducing barriers to choosing study in health care professions.

“Hope College is excited about the opportunity to work with GRAAHI and the partnering colleges and universities in West Michigan on this strategic vision sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to create pathways for careers in the health care fields for African American and Hispanic youth in our communities,” said Hope College President Dennis Voskuil.  “We believe this groundbreaking collaboration initiative will be transforming in the future of health care. We are committed to the success of this endeavor and to engaging, preparing and empowering our future health care leaders.”

GRAAHI’s executive director, Shannon Wilson, said, “This is by far the most influential grant we have received. It has the potential to change how medical care is delivered in Grand Rapids, and by whom. We can reduce disparities in health care when our health care workforce mirrors the diversity of our community.”

“The W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant funds a collaborative approach with our local colleges to study how we can reduce barriers limiting students of color from gaining employment in health care,” she said.  “We applaud the engagement of our seven area colleges and universities. No other community in the country is undertaking such a partnership with colleges and universities to create new pathways to careers in health care for students of color.”

La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation concurred, noting, "Creating an equitable pipeline to employment, education and health care is essential to improving the lives and futures of children in our communities — particularly children of color. This kind of active partnership and collaboration involving so many local institutions holds the potential for engaging and preparing a health care workforce of the future, one that reflects the community it serves."

Wilson cited studies that document the lack of minorities in health care professions. “White workers represent the majority component of all 30 health occupations studied, representing over 50 percent of workers in almost every occupation,” she said.  “Whites are overrepresented in 23 of 30 occupations. Blacks are underrepresented in all occupations except among dietitians and nutritionists and respiratory therapists. Hispanics are significantly underrepresented in all of the occupations in Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners occupations.”

 “The Institute of Medicine and the Sullivan Commission in 2004 identify the lack of minorities in the health workforce as contributing to unequal access and quality of care,” she said.

Paul Doyle, GRAAHI board chair, said, “A key objective within this important initiative is to establish an intentional and inclusive framework that fosters equity within the academic context of the participating institutions. We expect to gain a coordinated and sustainable pipeline approach to increase students of color entry into the health professions in West Michigan.”

GRAAHI’s clinical director, Dr. Khan Nedd, said that the project has three overarching goals: diversity in health care professions will mirror diversity in the community by 2040, that it will establish a cadre of African American and Latinix health care leaders in West Michigan, and that it will establish early exposure to advance health care practice careers throughout the K-12 experience.

GRAAHI staff will conduct targeted interviews, focus groups, document and literature reviews. The team will engage with a designated representative at each school and a cohort of incoming first-year students. In addition, GRAAHI will engage with students, parents, high school counselors and college and academic advisors.

Wilson said that GRAAHI is “uniquely positioned to do this work, as an independent, neutral non-profit organization. Our mission is to improve health and health care outcomes for African Americans and other marginalized populations residing in the Greater Grand Rapids area.”

GRAAHI has previously engaged in designing a graduate level concentration in health equity for the public health program in partnership with Grand Valley State University. A GRAAHI mentorship program is featured in numerous national conferences. A GRAAHI collaboration helped Spectrum Health’s cancer program identify ways to increase diversity of patients seeking treatment.

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About the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute: GRAAHI is a non-profit organization that works to improve health and health care outcomes for African Americans and other marginalized populations residing in the greater Grand Rapids area through research, advocacy and education. graahi.org. 

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation:  Founded in 1930 as independent private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, it is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United State. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information visit wkkf.org.

Please click below for the news release from the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute on which this announcement is based.  GRAAHI’s release includes additional information about the institute’s staff involved in “Pathways to Careers in Healthcare” and comments from the presidents of the other participating colleges and universities.

SEVEN AREA COLLEGES TO PARTICIPATE WITH GRAAHI IN $400,000 W.K. KELLOGG FOUNDATION STUDY GRANT TO REDUCE RACIAL DISPARITES IN HEALTH CARE EMPLOYMENT

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — (June 28, 2018) The Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, GRAAHI, announces a nationally unprecedented engagement with seven local colleges to create “Pathways to Careers in Healthcare” for area students of color funded by a $400,000 planning grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan.

Aquinas College, Calvin College, Davenport University, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University and Hope College will each participate in the study to develop “college-specific” plans of action to engage students of color in reducing barriers to choosing study in health care professions.

Shannon Wilson, M.P.H., Executive Director, GRAAHI said, “This is by far the most influential grant we have received. It has the potential to change how medical care is delivered in Grand Rapids, and by whom. We can reduce disparities in health care when our health care workforce mirrors the diversity of our community.”

Wilson said, “The W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant funds a collaborative approach with our local colleges to study how we can reduce barriers limiting students of color from gaining employment in health care. We applaud the engagement of our seven area colleges and universities. No other community in the country is undertaking such a partnership with colleges and universities to create new pathways to careers in health care for students of color.”

W.K. KELLOGG FOUNDATION, La June Montgomery Tabron, President and CEO: "Creating an equitable pipeline to employment, education and health care is essential to improving the lives and futures of children in our communities - particularly children of color. This kind of active partnership and collaboration involving so many local institutions holds the potential for engaging and preparing a health care workforce of the future, one that reflects the community it serves."  

GRAAHI executive director Shannon Wilson cited studies that document the lack of minorities in health care professions. “White workers represent the majority component of all 30 health occupations studied, representing over 50 percent of workers in almost every occupation. Whites are overrepresented in 23 of 30 occupations. Blacks are underrepresented in all occupations except among dietitians and nutritionists and respiratory therapists. Hispanics are significantly underrepresented in all of the occupations in Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners occupations.” 

 Wilson said, “The Institute of Medicine and the Sullivan Commission in 2004 identify the lack of minorities in the health workforce as contributing to unequal access and quality of care.” 

Paul Doyle, GRAAHI board chair said: “A key objective within this important initiative is to establish an intentional and inclusive framework that fosters equity within the academic context of the participating institutions. We expect to gain a coordinated and sustainable pipeline approach to increase students of color entry into the health professions in West Michigan.” 

GRAAHI Clinical Director, Khan Nedd, MD said the project has three overarching goals: diversity in health care professions will mirror diversity in the community by 2040, that it will establish a cadre of African American and Latinix health care leaders in West Michigan and that it will establish early exposure to advance health care practice careers throughout the K-12 experience. 

Statements from the seven participating colleges and universities: 

Aquinas College, Sister Damien Marie Savino, Dean of Science and Sustainability: “Aquinas College’s inter-university collaboration with GRAAHI will help Aquinas develop new pathways into the health professions for under-represented students and provide additional support for students of color, as well as for K-12 students from under-represented populations who are interested in health science fields. We are excited about this collaboration and its potential for contributing to our growing science programs at Aquinas College.” 

Calvin College, Michelle Loyd-Paige, Ph.D., Executive Associate to the President for Diversity and Inclusion: “It is exciting to be a partner in this important project, and we see this effort aligning well with our vision of promoting the welfare of the city. We are hopeful that through this collaboration with other area colleges and universities, we will attract more people to the region, more diverse talent to the industry, and enhance race relations in our city. We also see this effort enhancing our diversity and inclusion efforts at Calvin and strengthening our pre-health care program offerings.” 

Davenport University, Richard Pappas, Ed.D, president: “Davenport University’s efforts with GRAAHI will help level the playing field, providing early immersion opportunities in the health professions and support for students of color. These efforts align with who we are as a career-focused university and our Vision 2020.” 

Ferris State University, Dr. David Eisler, President: “Ferris State University strongly support the work of GRAAHI and is pleased to be a part of this W.K. Kellogg Foundation-funded project. These efforts mirror our commitment to building the opportunities a diverse workforce presents and our many efforts in educating the health care professionals of tomorrow.” 

Grand Rapids Community College, Bill Pink, Ph.D., President: “In West Michigan we get things done because we come together to solve a problem, better than anywhere I’ve seen. This partnership with GRAAHI and others will have an impact on our region and the community and GRCC is excited to be a part of this effort in helping provide a more diversified workforce in health care for the region.”

 Grand Valley State University, Thomas J. Haas, Ph.D., president:  "Grand Valley State University is pleased to work collaboratively on this project with six other academic institutions. The Pathways to Careers in Health Care Initiative supports Grand Valley's strategic plan to increase the diversity of our campus community to reflect that of West Michigan's population. 

"This work fits with the university's other initiatives to prepare students of color for success in college and the workforce; and this project is aligned with Grand Valley's commitment to the state of Michigan to fill the health care talent pipeline with qualified and diverse health care employees." 

Hope College, Dr. Dennis Voskuil, President: “Hope College is excited about the opportunity to work with GRAAHI and the partnering colleges and universities in West Michigan on this strategic vision sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to create pathways for careers in the health care fields for African American and Hispanic youth in our communities. We believe this groundbreaking collaboration initiative will be transforming in the future of health care. We are committed to the success of this endeavor and to engaging, preparing and empowering our future health care leaders.” 

 GRAAHI staff, including executive director Shannon Wilson, educational coordinator, Micah Foster, PA-C and educational specialist Elyse Greene, will explore the facilitators and barriers to entering the health care professions. They will conduct targeted interviews, focus groups, document and literature reviews. The team will engage with a designated representative at each school and a cohort of incoming first-year students. In addition, GRAAHI will engage with students, parents, high school counselors and college and academic advisors. 

GRAAHI is “uniquely positioned to do this work, as an independent, neutral non-profit organization. Our mission is to improve health and health care outcomes for African Americans and other marginalized populations residing in the Greater Grand Rapids area,” Shannon Wilson said. 

GRAAHI has previously engaged in designing a graduate level concentration in health equity for the public health program in partnership with Grand Valley State University. A GRAAHI mentorship program is featured in numerous national conferences. A GRAAHI collaboration helped Spectrum Health’s cancer program identify ways to increase diversity of patients seeking treatment. 

GRAAHI team members represent people of color working within health care. Shannon Wilson, executive director earned an MPH in Hospital and Molecular Epidemiology from the University of Michigan and is in the dissertation phase of a DRPH from the University of Illinois, Chicago. 

Education Coordinator Micah Foster, PA-C, previously worked in technology and finance before returning to school to pursue a health care career. When an employer at an orthopedic clinic suggested that Foster “would make a great physician assistant,” Foster said he had never heard of the profession and decided to investigate. Foster said he was disappointed in the lack of diversity at physician assistant school, at which only two of 70 students were people of color. “When students attend such schools they want to see more students who look like them,” Foster said. “I look at this study as a way to create a pipeline of intervention to create more opportunities for students of color.” 

Education specialist Elyse Greene earned a bachelors’ degree in Biology from Oakwood University and is applying to medical school. Greene said she is pursuing medicine because she has experienced firsthand the consequences that come with lack of cultural sensitivity when clinicians address patients of color. 

About the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute: GRAAHI is a non-profit organization that works to improve health and health care outcomes for African Americans and other marginalized populations residing in the greater Grand Rapids area through research, advocacy and education. www.graahi.org

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation:  Founded in 1930 as independent private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, it is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United State. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information visit www.wkkf.org.