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$3.4M HHS Grant To Help UIC Address Shortage of Latino Health Providers

 Vanessa Gonzalez -Summer Research Program

The University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine has received a five-year, $3.4 million federal grant to address disparities in minority health care.


The UIC Hispanic Center of Excellence will use the grant, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to improve the severe shortage of Latino physicians and other health care professionals.

"This grant will build programs that help us accomplish our mission to improve medical care for Latinos by increasing opportunities for students to pursue health careers, and enrich their education, with the goal of producing linguistically and culturally competent health practitioners," said Dr. Jorge Girotti, director of the center and dean and director of admissions for the UIC College of Medicine.

UIC established the Hispanic Center of Excellence more than 20 years ago to recruit and support Hispanic medical school faculty and medical students -- and to encourage promising high school and college students to consider health careers. The center will use the new grant to strengthen the educational pipeline that stretches from high school to senior faculty level.

Medicina Academy, currently a pilot program at four local high schools that targets promising students and exposes them to medical and health careers, will be expanded under the new grant, Girotti said. Students are supported in math and science classes, and networked with students at other schools and universities. Medicina Academy will be expanded to include the transition from high school to college.

Another project, Academia de Padres Leadership Institute, a parent academy, began as a natural outgrowth of Medicina Academy, and is "an opportunity to move the program beyond ordinary educational institutions," Girotti said. The one-year curriculum will offer all Latino parents a chance to learn about what colleges look for, and how the higher education system works.

"We have even found that some parents were interested in exploring further education themselves -- and even possible health careers," Girotti said.

A third project, a summer program, will introduce high-school students to health careers, help with study and writing skills, and prepare them for the ACT. Through the College of Medicine's Rockford campus, the program will reach into rural Illinois counties that have seen substantial increases in their Hispanic populations.

"We hope to expand the pipeline beyond the traditional urban populations," Girotti said.

UIC has more Latino students than any other university in Illinois, Girotti said, and several programs are aimed at helping this large group into health careers.

A new bridge program will work with UIC's Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services on the transition from high school to college, particularly for students focused on health careers. Also at the college level, a summer program of undergraduate research fellowships will focus on investigations related to health disparities. And, in a program that grew out of demand from the medical students themselves, the center will offer a new, two-year curriculum teaching cultural and linguistic competence.

The final piece, Girotti said, "is to create programs for junior faculty that give them the tools they need to be effective academics -- better teachers and better researchers, who move into senior faculty positions and, we hope, stay on here at the College of Medicine."