The AAMC hosted a virtual congressional briefing, “Building a Diverse Physician Workforce from Pre K to Practice,” on April 26 to highlight the importance of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Title VII programs and Medicare-supported graduate medical education (GME) in creating a diverse health workforce.
The briefing’s speakers included:
- Representative Robin Kelly (D-Ill.).
- Valerie Romero-Leggott, MD, vice chancellor and diversity, equity, and inclusion executive officer at the University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center.
- Brian Gittens, EdD, MPA, vice chancellor for diversity, equity, and inclusion at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science.
- Leon McDougle, MD, MPH, chief diversity officer and associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and president of the National Medical Association.
- Karen Fisher, JD, chief public policy officer at the AAMC.
Congresswoman Kelly, who serves as the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, opened the briefing by stating, “We know that diversifying the medical workforce improves patient- physician communication, improves trust in the relationship and recommendations given, and increases adherence to treatment plans. … By exposing our youth to a career in medicine, we not only invest in our future but in the lives of the patients they will one day assist.”
Romero-Leggott, Gittens, and McDougle all highlighted the importance of the HRSA Title VII Health Career Opportunity Program (HCOP), Centers of Excellence (COE), Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students (SDS), and Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) in their institutions’ attempts to diversify the health workforce. The speakers noted how these grants are utilized to recruit students from underserved, minority, and rural backgrounds; partner with historically Black colleges and universities; and provide students with the mentorship, tutoring, and resources to apply for medical school.
All the speakers discussed the need to drastically increase funding for the federal programs to help diversify the workforce. They reiterated the AAMC-led Health Professions and Nursing Education Coalition’s request of $1.51 billion, which would double the funding for HRSA Title VII and Title VIII programs like the HCOP, the COE, the SDS, and the AHEC in fiscal year 2022 [refer to Washington Highlights, April 2].
Additionally, Fisher stressed the importance of passing the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act (S.834, H.R. 2256), which would increase the number of Medicare-supported GME slots and initiate a study on diversifying the health workforce [refer to Washington Highlights, March 19]. She reminded the audience that while GME slots alone would not diversify the physician workforce, they are critical to addressing the physician shortage and producing more physicians.