More than 500 participants from Minority Serving Institutions (MSI), academic affiliates and professional organizations attended VA’s “2021 Minority Summit: The Power of Collaborating with VA.”
The summit was hosted by the VA Office of Academic Affiliations (OAA) June 9 to find ways to advance VA academic partnerships with MSIs and expand diversity in health professions trainees.
The summit, which highlighted VA clinical training opportunities, scholarships, loan programs and research grants, included remarks from VA Secretary Denis R. McDonough.
He encouraged VA and MSIs to expand these partnerships to better leverage “our country’s greatest strength – our diversity – to radically change the face of health care for all Americans, including our Veterans.”
Diversity a necessity as minority population increases
Minorities comprise 23% of the Veteran population. By 2040, minorities are expected to grow to 37% of the Veteran population. By 2050, minorities are projected to make up more than half of the nation’s overall population, according to Pew Research.
With minorities making up only 12% of students graduating from the nation’s medical schools, diversity is a necessity to ensure VA’s ability to deliver the best quality of health care for increasingly diverse Veteran population.
Partnerships help create equity, shape the future of health care
Recent studies show significant reductions in such health issues as infant mortality and cardiovascular disease in minorities who are cared for by minority physicians. “We need our workforce to look like the population we serve – not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it saves lives,” McDonough said.
A trainee conducts an eye exam.
He also noted that minority health disparities and that only 12% of medical school graduates are Native American, black or Hispanic.
“We have to diminish those inequities by quickly increasing the number of minorities attending medical school and graduating from medical school,” he said. “And I want to see them coming here to VA.”
Building a diverse pipeline of health professionals
For 75 years, VA has partnered with America’s medical, nursing and associated health programs to train future health professionals in the highest standards of clinical practice and evidence-based medicine. Today, approximately 120,000 health profession trainees in over 40 health care disciplines train at VA each year.
VA partners with more than 1,800 unique colleges and universities, including nearly 200 MSIs, to provide dynamic, comprehensive health professions training to prepare the next generation of clinicians and health care leaders.
VA’s education and training mission encompasses the department’s efforts to prepare culturally competent diverse health professionals who reflect the Veterans they serve, and who understand Veterans’ backgrounds and experiences and build trusting relationships that improve health outcomes.
Trainee diversity is key to Veteran care
Approximately 20,000 health professions trainees from MSIs train at VA each year. These trainees are critical to the success of Veteran health care and improving health outcomes amongst a rapidly increasing minority population in VA and across the nation.
The Minority Summit brought together representatives from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Asian American and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions, and other MSIs.
They were able to explore ways to increase partnerships with VA and add to the number of trainees from MSIs at VA.
“We are thrilled at the response to the 2021 Minority Summit and the prospect of building new affiliations and expanding existing partnerships across the academic spectrum,” said Dr. Paul B. Greenberg, OAA’s acting chief academic affiliations officer. Partnerships with MSIs are critical to developing a diverse pipeline of future health professionals for VA and the nation. It’s important to us that trainees and employees reflect the diversity of the Veterans we are honored to care for every day.”
- Visit the Office of Academic Affiliations recently updated website.
- Find out more about VA’s academic mission by watching this video.
Tonya Lobbestael is the public affairs officer for the VHA Office of Academic Affiliations.