Conference discusses minority diversity in health care careers

By Ariel Serafin
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 21, 2005

Many ethnic groups underrepresented in medical professions in United States

The lack of representation of minorities in medical fields and the inadequate health care that results was one of the primary themes of a diversity conference Saturday.

A recent report from the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce Together found that while blacks, Hispanics and American Indians make up more than a quarter of the U.S. population, they are only employed as 9 percent of the country's nurses, 6 percent of its physicians and 5 percent of its dentists.

Students considering a career in the medical field got a chance to re-evaluate their motivations and learn about the growing cultural issues involved in health care at the Fostering and Achieving Cultural Equity and Sensitivity in Health Professions Conference.

The FACES club is focused on increasing the numbers of underrepresented groups in the health care profession, in order to improve the quality of health care for people from all different backgrounds.

The conference, which is in its eighth year of circulation between Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University and the UA, included a variety of workshops, presentations and speakers on the theme of embracing diversity in health care.

Rita Mild, a molecular and cellular biology senior, said her favorite part of the day was listening to Dr. Martín Hernández speak about his struggle to get into medical school. Mild said the speech gave her hope because Hernández is now an award-winning doctor.

Mild said she would attend the conference again and that with the changing demographics of our country, it was important for all medical professionals to understand different types of lifestyles.

"People are going to need training in different cultures," Mild said.

Keynote speaker Dr. Ken Iserson told the roughly 50 attendants he did not want to push anyone into a health career and thought it was important for students to consider why they want to go to medical school.

Iserson, who is a UA professor of emergency medicine and director of the Arizona Bioethics program, showed a presentation that outlined the pros and cons of medical careers, and was centered around one main question for students.

"Are you being pushed to become a health care professional?" or "Are you being assisted to become what you are passionate about already?" a slide asked the audience.

The conference was funded primarily through the FACES membership fee, along with funding from the Office of Minority Affairs, and some outside grants said UA FACES President and community health education senior Rene Lozano.

Students who are interested in getting involved with the FACES club can attend the last meeting of the semester on Nov. 28, 5:30 p.m. in the César E. Chávez building, Room 405.