PA educators and PAEA staff were among more than 60 people who kicked off the inaugural meeting last week of the health professions chapter of the National Organization of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE). The NADOHE is an organization founded in 2003 to provide a forum for discussion of national standards and other issues related to what they called the “nascent diversity profession.” The health professions chapter was founded last year in recognition of the specific issues faced by institutions training future health professionals. Its inaugural meeting was hosted by the American Dental Education Association, one of PAEA’s health professions education neighbors at 655 K Street.
The meeting focused on the continuing challenges faced by almost all health professions around the relatively low numbers of students entering these professions from certain underrepresented minority (URM) groups. Chief Diversity Officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges, David Acosta, MD, shared data showing that the percentages of all medical school applicants and matriculants who are black or Hispanic have increased only marginally since 1980. A deeper dive into this data showed that the number of U.S.-born black males in these groups is a particular concern, with only 699 applicants and 284 matriculants. The PA profession has similar challenges, with black and Hispanic populations continuing to be underrepresented among both students and faculty over many years, according to PAEA reports.
“We need to address this as a national-level crisis and address it at the systems level,” said Acosta. The two PA educators at the meeting — Carolyn Bradley Guidry, DrPH, PA-C, of UT Southwestern Medical Center, and Erika Bramlette, MBA, PA-C, of George Washington University — agreed with Acosta’s diagnosis and recommended solutions. “As Dr. Acosta said, the question that institutions need to answer is ‘How are you addressing the state and national crisis?’” said Bradley-Guidry.
Both PAs believe that the new diversity standard in the 5th edition of the Accreditation Standards will make a difference in increasing the numbers of URM students being admitted to PA programs, as it will require sponsoring institutions to devote resources to establish a process to increase student, faculty, and staff diversity and inclusion.
“The problems of health equity make workforce diversity a national issue, and action needs to be centered at the institutional level,” said Bramlette. “We need to be more deliberate in our approach. We need prioritization and financial backing from our institutions.”
Bradley-Guidry encouraged programs to get involved with organizations like NADOHE. “Given that we now have a diversity standard, every program should encourage faculty to get involved and attend national diversity conferences,” she said. “PA educators can learn from other health professionals and be a part of the interprofessional process to enhance health professions workforce diversity. ”
NADOHE is not limited to those holding a chief diversity officer title, noted Bradley-Guidry; anyone interested in joining can do so.