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Promoting Minority Access to Health Careers through Health Profession–Public School Partnerships: A Review of the Literature

Patterson, Davis G. PhD; Carline, Jan D. PhD

doi: 10.1097/01.ACM.0000225247.84379.9c

Partnerships between health profession schools and public schools provide a framework for developing comprehensive, creative solutions to the problem of minority underrepresentation in health careers. This review examines the functioning of partner relationships, focusing on elements of the social context that determine success or failure, and stages of partnership development. Influential aspects of the social context include cultural differences between personnel in higher education and K–12 institutions, the resources available to the partnership, and constraints on partnership activity. Stages of the process that partner institutions must negotiate include initiation, ongoing management, and institutionalization.

Strategies to improve minority student achievement are reviewed, including specific types of programmatic interventions and best practices. Strategies available to partnerships for improving minority achievement include academic enhancement, science or math instructional enrichment, career awareness and motivation, mentoring, research apprenticeship, reward incentives, and parental involvement. Of these, academic enhancement and instructional enrichment have the greatest potential for improving minority student outcomes. Partnerships need to take a sustained multipronged approach, providing intensive interventions that target students, teachers, and curricula at appropriate educational stages. Documenting program impact is critical for attracting more resources to increase minority access to health careers: sponsoring organizations should dedicate funds for assessment of the partnership’s functioning and for rigorous evaluation of interventions.

Dr. Patterson is senior research associate, WWAMI Center for Health Workforce Studies, Department of Family Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.

Dr. Carline is professor, Department of Medical Education and Biomedical Informatics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Patterson, WWAMI Center for Health Workforce Studies, 4311 11th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105; e-mail: (

This review is based on a study that was supported by grants from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Association of American Medical Colleges.

© 2006 Association of American Medical Colleges