WSSU Alliance to Increase Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Health Workforce
Former Health and Human Services Secretary and Chairman of The Sullivan Alliance to Transform the Health Professions, Louis W. Sullivan, M.D. came to Winston-Salem State University to meet with senior officials from 20 North Carolina colleges, universities, statewide organizations, as well as state and local health agencies to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to create an alliance to increase minority representation in the health professions. This new academic and state agency partnership - The North Carolina Alliance for Health Professions Diversity - aims to reduce disparities in health status and healthcare by increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the healthcare workforce in the state of North Carolina, thereby creating a future healthcare workforce that is increasingly proficient in cross-racial and cross-cultural interactions.
"We are impressed that North Carolina's Area Health Education Centers, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, state universities, community colleges, and state and local health agencies have all committed to working together to create a more diverse health workforce," said Sullivan. "These academic, state and local health leaders clearly recognize that in the current environment, with millions more Americans securing health insurance, they still won't have access to care unless there aren't more health professionals available to serve them."
"With so many North Carolina Alliance members working together to address the state's shortage of health professionals, I am confident we can increase the racial and ethnic diversity of newly-trained health professionals and improve access to healthcare across North Carolina,” said Dr. Peggy Valentine, North Carolina Alliance co-founder and dean of the School of Health Sciences at WSSU.
The North Carolina Alliance was originally co-founded by Tom Bacon and Jacqueline Wynn of North Carolina Area Health Education Centers and Valentine of WSSU. Through this partnership, the first NC Health Professions Diversity Conference was held in 2008 with over 150 health professionals, educators, policy makers and legislators in attendance.
That work led to the colleges, universities and state health agencies coming together to address a need across the state. Institutions participating in the MOU signing included Bennett College, Campbell University, Davidson Community College, East Carolina University, Elon University, University of North Carolina Greensboro, North Carolina Central University, High Point University, Appalachian State University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University, St. Augustine's University, Western Carolina University, Winston-Salem State University, N.C. Area Health Education Center, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the Forsyth County Department of Public Health.
"We are delighted to work with colleagues from around the state to address this important issue," Valentine added. "As our state and nation become more ethnically diverse, we will need a health professions workforce that mirrors our population in an effort to reduce health disparities."
North Carolina is among the most diverse states in the nation, and ranks ninth with respect to percent African Americans (22 percent). African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos (8.9%), American Indians/Alaska Natives (1.6%), and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders (0.1%) constitute 32.6 percent of the state's population, but, minorities constitute only one out of six health professionals.