By   – Staff reporter, Cincinnati Business Courier
Female nurse standing with doctor, focus on nurse

UC Health intends to contribute $1.5 million to create University of Cincinnati scholarships designed to diversify the medical profession.

The hospital system, which includes the flagship UC Medical Center in Corryville, hopes the scholarships will help all local health systems diversify their workforces when hiring doctors, nurses, pharmacists and medical technicians.

“We know through recent research that underrepresented adults in Cincinnati believe their race negatively impacts their treatment from medical professionals,” said Dr. Rick Lofgren, CEO of UC Health. “This investment is a step to improve health care for all of our patients and to foster a health care workforce that reflects the diversity of our population.”

UC Health donated $500,000 to establish scholarships for students from diverse backgrounds, which was divided as $125,000 each awarded to the UC College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy and the College of Allied Health Sciences.

Another $1 million is to be contributed over seven years to fund the UC Health Diversity Scholarships. The four colleges, collectively known as the UC Academic Health Center, intend to raise matching funds to endow the scholarships in perpetuity. The amount and length of each scholarship will vary depending on donor intent.

The scholarships will benefit students from underrepresented communities or disadvantaged backgrounds determined by criteria such as socio-economic status, parental education, cultural background or history of overcoming adversity.

Scholarships were awarded for the first time this academic year for undergraduate and graduate students in health care disciplines. UC Health funds and matched gifts from donors have so far supported 21 scholarships at the UC Academic Health Center.

Sarah Appeadu, a student at the UC College of Medicine, said the UC Health Diversity Scholarship she received allows her to focus on academics instead of lining up more loans to pay for school.

She believes the medical profession benefits from a workforce with a wide array of perspectives, skills, experiences and beliefs.

“Diversity is a necessary and hopeful remedy for a society that unfortunately created an atmosphere of mistrust in United States institutions for its minority populations,” Appeadu said. “An invitation to trust again can start with the simple relationship between a provider and patient of the same racial, ethnic or cultural background.”

Recruiting and retaining diverse health care professionals is a pressing need, said Tina Whalen, dean of the UC College of Allied Health Sciences.

“We face considerable competition for top diverse candidates,” Whalen said. “These scholarships, generously initiated by UC Health’s leadership investment, represent a major step forward in our strategic recruitment efforts.”

Retirement or relocation is expected to greatly diminish the availability of diverse care providers in the coming years, according to UC. For example, the average age of African-American doctors in the region is 64, according to the Cincinnati Medical Association.

The benefits of UC Health’s commitment are two-fold, said Neville Pinto, president of the University of Cincinnati.

“First, this contributes to our mission to provide all students with access to an affordable education,” he said. “Second, as an urban-based university and the region’s only university with an academic health center, we are uniquely driven by community challenges. These scholarships will help deliver what patients deserve: health care providers reflective of our diversity.”

In addition to the UC Medical Center, UC Health includes:

  • West Chester Hospital
  • Daniel Drake Center for Post-Acute Care in Hartwell
  • Lindner Center of Hope in Mason
  • Bridgeway Pointe Assisted Living in Hartwell
  • University of Cincinnati Physicians as well as the Gardner Neuroscience Institute
  • UC Cancer Institute
  • UC Heart, Lung & Vascular Institute
  • UC Diabetes & Metabolic Disease Institute.