Aquinas College joins six area higher education institutions to participate in “Pathways to Careers in Health Care”

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The Grand Rapids African American Health Institute (GRAAHI) announced a "Pathways to Careers in Health Care" initiative to engage with area colleges and universities through a $400,000 planning grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek. Shannon Wilson, executive director of GRAAHI, said the grant allows for college-specific plans of action to engage students of color and help reduce barriers to choosing to study in health care professions.

“This is by far the most influential grant we have received," Wilson said during a news conference held June 28 at the Kent ISD Conference Center. "It has the potential to change how medical care is delivered in Grand Rapids, and by whom. We can reduce disparities in health care when our health care workforce mirrors the diversity of our community.”

President Kevin G. Quinn said he could not think of a more beneficial initiative to help the West Michigan community as a whole. "One of the founding pillars of Aquinas College is community and another one is service,'' said Quinn. “The Health Care Pathways initiative fits within our mission and will reduce barriers to help underrepresented populations interested in studying STEM fields.” Aquinas College is not new to offering programs designed to support underrepresented populations. The STEM Scholars program at Aquinas is entering its second year and provides students with the skills they need to become successful while studying STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) at Aquinas.

Other institutions participating in the Pathways initiative are Calvin College, Davenport University, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University and Hope College. GRAAHI will engage with each institution in addition to connecting with parents and high school counselors. Wilson said white health care workers represent more than 50 percent of employees in almost every occupation category. She cited a 2004 report from the Institute of Medicine and the Sullivan Commission that identified the lack of people of color in health care fields as a contributing factor in overall quality of care. The Pathways project has overall goals of mirroring the diversity in the community by 2040, establishing early exposure to advance health care practice careers throughout the K-12 experience, and developing a cohort of African American and Latino/a health care leaders.

“Aquinas College’s inter-university collaboration with GRAAHI will help Aquinas develop new pathways into the health professions for underrepresented students and provide additional support for students of color, as well as for K-12 students from under-represented populations who are interested in health science fields. We are excited about this collaboration and its potential for contributing to our growing science programs at Aquinas College,” said Dean of Sciences and Sustainability Sister Damien Marie Savino, F.S.E., Ph.D.

For More Information Contact: Angela M. Butterfield, Communications: 616-632-2824