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Physician Diversity Program teams OU-COM with


By Dennis Fiely

July 7, 2009 

A new partnership between OhioHealth and the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-COM) provides minority medical students early and sustained exposure to professional practices within the OhioHealth system. 

The Physician Diversity Scholars Program matches first-year Hispanic and African-American students with OhioHealth physicians from similar backgrounds in a series of mentoring activities intended to serve as a gateway to careers with OhioHealth.  

The four-year program requires at least three shadowing, community service or professional organization events per semester during the first two years of medical school, followed by a more customized relationship, as led by the mentors, during their third- and fourth-year clinical rotations, when students must select at least three OhioHealth rotations.

OhioHealth pays each of its scholars a $500 stipend each academic year to cover expenses. After graduation, each scholar is offered a loan repayment of $10,000 a year for each year they participate in an OhioHealth residency.

Kristin Peoples, OMS I, already has attended two professional conferences with her mentor, Geraldine Urse, D.O. (’93), FACOFP, and has made arrangements this summer to assist Urse with patient histories and physical exams at Doctors Hospital Family Practice Center in Grove City.

“The loan repayment is a major benefit, but more important to me was the opportunity to gain real-world experience and build a long-term relationship with Dr. Urse, who can help guide me through my career,” Peoples said. 

Of the 15 first-year students eligible for the program, 13 applied and eight were accepted, based on essays they wrote about their career aspirations and commitment to community service. 

“The response has been overwhelming,” said Colette McLemore, assistant director of multicultural programs. “I’ve never seen a program like this, and students jumped at the chance to participate. These mentors can introduce them to Columbus, give them a feel for what it’s like to be a physician and show them how they can best serve their patients and the community.” 

The program represents a proactive response from OhioHealth to address the shortage of minority physicians.

“This is a forward-thinking initiative that offers unusual educational opportunities for entry-level medical school students and helps OhioHealth better meets the needs of our multicultural community with a more diversified medical staff,” said Bruce Vanderhoff, M.D., chief medical officer of OhioHealth. “Our goal is to establish a connection with first-year students from the diverse pool at OU-COM and encourage them to do their residencies with us.” 

Of the nearly one million nonfederal physicians in the United States, two percent are African-American and three percent are Hispanic, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Ohio has 755 African-American and 413 Hispanic physicians.

“Everybody is competing for these physicians from the same small pool,” said David Sullivan, director of diversity and inclusion at OhioHealth. “Our idea was to catch these students early, before they made up their minds about where they want to practice. We want the demographic make-up of our employees to mirror that of the community.”

With 26 percent of its entering students from minority backgrounds, OU-COM exceeds the national average. “One of the reasons OhioHealth came to us was our outstanding minority recruitment,” said John Schriner, Ph.D., director of admissions. “It’s one of the things we pride ourselves on.” 

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Last updated: 01/28/2016