GVSU joins initiative to increase students of color in health care fields

President Haas at podium
President Thomas J. Haas gives remarks during a news conference announcing the Pathways to Careers in Health Care initiative June 28 at the Kent ISD Conference Center.
Image Credit: Bernadine Carey-Tucker
Woman at podium
Shannon Wilson, executive director of GRAAHI, speaks during a news conference about the Pathways to Careers in Health Care initiative June 28 at the Kent ISD Conference Center.
Image Credit: Bernadine Carey-Tucker
10 people standing
Leaders from area colleges and universities, plus staff members from Grand Rapids African American Health Institute.
Image Credit: Bernadine Carey-Tucker

Grand Valley and six area higher education institutions will work to increase the number of students of color who choose health care fields while in college, then succeed in the workforce.

The Grand Rapids African American Health Institute (GRAAHI) announced a "Pathways to Careers in Health Care" initiative to engage with area colleges and universities through a $400,000 planning grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek. Shannon Wilson, executive director of GRAAHI, said the grant allows for college-specific plans of action to engage students of color and help reduce barriers to choosing to study in health care professions.

“This is by far the most influential grant we have received," Wilson said during a news conference held June 28 at the Kent ISD Conference Center. "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.”

President Thomas J. Haas said the Pathways initiative supports Grand Valley's strategic plan to increase the diversity of its 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," Haas said. Hear more in this video.

Other institutions participating in the Pathways initiative are Aquinas College, Calvin College, Davenport University, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College and Hope College. GRAAHI will engage with each institution in addition to connecting with parents and high school counselors.

Wilson said white health care workers represent more than 50 percent of employees in almost every occupation category. She cited a 2004 report from the Institute of Medicine and the Sullivan Commission that identified the lack of people of color in health care fields as a contributing factor in overall quality of care.

The Pathways project has overall goals of mirroring diversity in the community by 2040, establishing early exposure to advance health care practice careers throughout the K-12 experience, and developing a cohort of African American and Latino/a health care leaders.