Purpose: To identify characteristics of health professions schools, public schools, and community-based organizations in successful partnerships to increase the number of underrepresented minority students entering health professions. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation funded the Health Professions Partnership Initiative program developed from Project 3000 by 2000 of the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Method: Semi-structured interviews were completed with awardees and representatives of the funding agencies, the national program office, and the national advisory committee between the fall of 2000 and the summer of 2002. Site visits were conducted at ten sites, with representatives of partner institutions, teachers, parents, and children. Characteristics that supported and hindered development of successful partnerships were identified using an iterative qualitative approach.
Results: Successful partnerships included professional schools that had a commitment to community service. Successful leaders could work in both cultures of the professional and public schools. Attitudes of respect and listening to the needs of partners were essential. Public school governance supported innovation. Happenstance and convergence of interests played significant roles in partnership development. The most telling statement was “We did it, together.”
Conclusions: This study identifies characteristics associated with smoothly working partnerships, and barriers to successful program development. Successful partnerships can form the basis on which educational interventions are built. The study is limited by the definition of success used, and its focus on one funded program. The authors were unable to identify outcomes in terms of numbers of children influenced by programs or instances in which lasting changes in health professions schools had occurred.