ADEA Summit Focuses on Shortage of Men of Color in Healthcare Professions

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS THREAD)–Addressing an issue that significantly undermines access to quality health care, the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) organized a two-day summit in August to shed light on—and begin to develop solutions to— the lack of men of color in the health professions.

The ADEA Men of Color in the Health Professions Summit 2022, held August 10-11 at ADEA headquarters in Washington, DC, attracted attendees representing more than two dozen health care organizations and dental schools. Made possible with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the summit featured a keynote presentation by David Satcher, MD, Ph.D., the 16th Surgeon General of the United States, who encouraged attendees to take action.

“We need people who care enough to know enough and have the courage to do enough to persevere until the job is done,” he said.

A look at the data helps explain the problem. For example, between 2011 and 2019, the percentage of dental school applicants from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups (HURE) increased by only 2.2% annually. Other healthcare disciplines also report slow growth when it comes to attracting HURE applicants. And a growing body of research suggests that medical care improves when health care professionals and patients share the same race or ethnicity.

To attract more historically underrepresented students to the health professions, Dr. Satcher said outreach needs to start as early as elementary school. “Right now, we need to invest in their excitement for learning, so that students invest more in themselves,” he said. “We have to ask ourselves, how can I make sure our students care about learning?”

One such outreach program is the Determined to be a Doctor Someday (DDS) initiative founded by Christina Rosenthal, DDS, who spoke at the summit. The pipeline program helps expose students to the various healthcare disciplines.

The summit served as an initial step in what is expected to be a longer, sustained, and collaborative effort to increase men of color within the health professions.

“We will take the passion and commitment for change we saw at this summit and translate it into action,” vowed ADEA President and CEO Karen P. West, DMD, MPH. “This summit marks the beginning of what will be a broad and practical initiative that will provide recommendations, suggested priorities and next steps to presidents and CEOs of health professions academic organizations and other education and health leaders.”

Dr. West had presented the idea of ​​a Men of Color in the Health Professions initiative to the Federation of Associations of Health Professions Schools last spring, and the effort began with a symposium at the Annual Session and Exposition of the ADEA 2022 last March. This symposium was a collaboration with the Association of American Medical Colleges, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Association for Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research.

Attendees at the August summit included representatives from dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, psychiatry, public health, osteopathic medicine, social work, physical therapy, occupational therapy, veterinary medicine, and optometry, along with more than a dozen schools and academic centers.

“Multidisciplinary participation at the summit is a crucial part of what will be a success story,” said Sonya Smith, Ed.D., JD, ADEA’s Chief Diversity Officer. “No medical discipline is immune to this problem, and no one discipline or entity can solve it. The solution is based on innovative thinking from multiple stakeholders and an unwavering determination for positive change.”

The summit brought together several leaders in dental education, including Todd V. Ester, DDS, MS, and Ryan Quock, DDS, both of whom served as event facilitators.

Dr. Ester is the Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, and Dr. Quock is a distinguished professor at the University of Texas at Houston School of Dentistry.

Dr. West thanked all the attendees and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for their support.

“Because of the generosity of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the time and expertise of the stakeholders who attended our summit, we are on the path to greater diversity in the health professions and, as a result, improve health care”.

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