United Health Foundation began its Diverse Scholars Initiative in 2007 and has helped nearly 1,000 multicultural students reach their higher education dreams while inspiring them to pursue careers in health. From 2007 through this year more than $5 million in scholarships has been awarded to some of the best talent.
Research shows that when patients are treated by health professionals who share their language, culture and ethnicity, they are more likely to accept and receive medical treatment. Current statistics indicate the number of multicultural health practitioners is quite low:
- African Americans represent 13% of the U.S. population, but only 4% of physicians, 5% of nurses, and 5% of dentists.1
- American Latinos represent 16% of the total population, but only 4% of physicians, 6% of nurses, and 5% of dentists.1
- The Indian Health Service physician vacancy rate is as high as 17% 2, while American Indians have significantly higher rates of tuberculosis, alcoholism, and diabetes than other Americans.
Minority health professionals are also more likely to serve minority populations than are health professionals in general. United Health Foundation believed fostering the careers of more diverse and multicultural health professionals will create a more culturally relevant and effective health care system, particularly in underserved communities.
1 Missing Persons: Minorities in the Health Professions; A Report of the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce; September 2004.
2 Indian Health Service Workforce Fact Sheet; January 2008.
Diverse Scholars Initiative Poll
As part of our commitment to strengthen and diversify the health workforce, United Health Foundation recently polled nearly 500 multicultural students who are pursuing health careers, to better understand what motivates them and what barriers they encounter along their journey. The findings showed that:
- Minority students are far more motivated by a desire to help people than by financial gain: 46% percent of scholars cited "having a positive impact on people's lives" as their top reason for pursuing a health career while only 17% cited salary.
- The students polled care about diversifying the health care field. Almost two thirds of students responded that there aren't enough multicultural health practitioners.
- While money isn't a primary source of career motivation for the respondents, it is a primary source of stress and discouragement. Of those polled, 98% said lack of funding opportunities is a significant barrier to achieving their education and career goals.
To learn more about this survey, click here.
Diverse Scholars Forum
Since 2009 United Health Foundation has held an annual Diverse Scholars Forum in Washington, D.C. as part of the Diverse Scholars Initiative. This year's event brought together more than 70 scholarship recipients from across the nation to the three-day Forum which focused around a central theme of "Fostering a Healthy Future: Preparing for Tomorrow's Health Care Needs."
Scholars heard from a range of policymakers and thought leaders, including U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, Washington Post Columnist Jonathan Capehart, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration Administrator Mary Wakefield and UnitedHealth Group Executive Vice President Tony Welters. In addition, the students attended a reception on Capitol Hill and were able to engage in interactive dialogue with leaders from a variety of health care fields.
The United Health Foundation is committed to extending opportunities to the health leaders of tomorrow and we are proud to lead this effort. To see video from the 2012 Diverse Scholars Forum, click here.
United Health Foundation proudly partners with leading nonprofit and civic organizations to select and award scholarships to deserving students pursuing careers in health. To qualify, scholars must demonstrate a financial need and a strong commitment to working in underserved communities, including community health centers.
To apply for scholarships, please visit the following websites. Specific requirements and application deadlines vary by organization.
All Scholar Programs (open to any diverse student)
African American Health Scholars
American Indian Health Scholars
Asian American Health Scholars
Latino Health Scholars