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Innovative Approaches to Promote a Culturally Competent, Diverse Health Care Workforce in an Institution Serving Hispanic Students

Ghaddar, Suad PhD; Ronnau, John PhD; Saladin, Shawn P. PhD; Martínez, Glenn PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000007

The underrepresentation of minorities among health care providers and researchers is often considered one of the contributing factors to health disparities in these populations. Recent demographic shifts and the higher proportion of minorities anticipated among the newly insured under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act make the need for a more diverse and culturally competent health care workforce an urgent national priority.

The authors describe current and future strategies that have been developed at the College of Health Sciences and Human Services at the University of Texas–Pan American (an institution with 89% Hispanic students in 2012) to prepare a culturally competent and ethnically diverse health care workforce that can meet the needs of a diverse population, especially in the college’s own community. The college graduates approximately 650 students annually for careers in nursing, physician assistant studies, occupational therapy, pharmacy, rehabilitation services, clinical laboratory sciences, dietetics, and social work. The college’s approach centers on enriching student education with research, service, and community-based experiences within a social-determinants-of-health framework. The approach is promoted through an interdisciplinary health disparities research center, multiple venues for community-based service learning, and an innovative approach to improve cultural and linguistic competence. Although the different components of the college’s approach are at different developmental stages and will benefit from more formal evaluations, the college’s overall vision has several strengths that promise to serve as a model for future academic health initiatives.

Dr. Ghaddar is director, South Texas Border Health Disparities Center, University of Texas–Pan American, Edinburg, Texas.

Dr. Ronnau is dean, College of Health Sciences and Human Services, University of Texas–Pan American, Edinburg, Texas.

Dr. Saladin is associate dean for research, College of Health Sciences and Human Services, University of Texas–Pan American, Edinburg, Texas.

Dr. Martínez is chair and professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.

Funding/Support: None.

Other disclosures: The South Texas Border Health Disparities Center was funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, grant number H75DP001812. The Medical Spanish for Heritage Learners program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education. Comprehensive Program. Grant number P116B070124.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Education, or the University of Texas–Pan American.

Previous presentations: Information on the Valley-ICAN program was presented at the National Training Forum for State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies’ State Coordinators and Related Professionals Serving Individuals Who Are Deaf, Deaf-Blind, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened, in Baltimore, Maryland, August 24, 2010.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Ghaddar, South Texas Border Health Disparities Center, ITT Bldg., Room 1.404Q, 1201 W. University Dr., Edinburg, TX 78539-2999; telephone: (956) 665-7937; fax: (956) 665-7310; e-mail:

© 2013 by the Association of American Medical Colleges