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Minority scholars have typically been underrepresented in health-related educational settings and in the healthcare workforce. Lack of financial resources is a significant barrier to becoming a health professional. One barrier to this disparity is not having access to financial assistance. The United Health Foundation has a Diverse Scholars Initiative with a goal of increasing the number of minority college graduates entering healthcare professions by awarding them scholarships. In May, the Scholars Initiative conducted an online poll that asked a sample of minority college students about their inspirations and difficulties of getting a health-related education.
When asked what their primary reason for wanting to pursue a health career was, the highest response was that they wanted to change people’s lives. When asked if funding opportunities were a significant barrier to pursing a health-related career or education, an overwhelming 98% said yes. When asked what was the most critical barrier related to funding opportunities that is preventing them from pursuing their own education and career goals, they responded, “availability of sufficient funding sources.”
There were also questions related to the students’ interaction with minority health professionals and their future careers: 62% said that there are not enough minority health professionals; 24% said that a health professional of a similar racial or ethnic background had never treated them. When asked how interested they were in working to serve a community with the same or similar racial or ethnic background as themselves, 9-in-10 responded that they want to serve minority communities. Giving back is the primary incentive for minority students to enter a health-related field.
The overall results of the poll are clear: minority scholars want to pursue a health career in order to give back to others, but their greatest barrier is lack of financial assistance. If more programs like the United Health Foundation Diverse Scholars Initiative would award more scholarships to minority students, then they would be able to pursue their career goals. An increase in minorities in the field is important because when they treat minority patients, those patients are more likely to accept and receive medical treatment since they share commonalities. Minority scholars also bring various perspectives and experiences that can help solve complex problems, such as health disparities.