Friday, July 13, 2012

Positive Change Trumps Financial Rewards

United Health Foundation released new research that, to be honest, was somewhat surprising. While we typically hear about money and power being the number one motivator for minority youth – complete with “bling, bling” and “baggy pants” - the study showed that minority students pursuing health careers are far more motivated by a desire to serve their community than by potential financial rewards.

When asked what is the single most important motivation, 46 percent of minority scholars cited having a positive impact on people’s lives as their top reason for pursuing a health career. Only 17 percent cited salary or income. But while money is not a primary motivation for these students, it is a primary source of stress and discouragement. Of those polled, 98 percent said financial hurdles are a significant barrier to achieving their education and career goals.

The research, conducted by APCO Insight and funded by United Health Foundation, polled about 500 minority students pursuing health careers. More than 60 percent of respondents said there are not enough minority health professionals. One in four said they had never been treated by a health professional of the same or similar racial or ethnic background as themselves. Nearly 90 percent said they are interested in working to serve a community with the same or similar racial or ethnic background as themselves.

To help remove some of the financial barriers many minority students face, United Health Foundation, through its partner organizations such as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, the United Negro College Fund and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, awarded $1.2 million in scholarships to 200 students in 2012 alone. Why such a huge investment? “We know patients do best when they are treated by people who understand their language and culture,” said Kate Rubin, president, United Health Foundation. “United Health Foundation is grateful for the opportunity to help support these outstanding students who are demonstrating impressive purpose and passion and who will help lead the way to better health access and outcomes.”

I’m proud to give a big shout out to the five Diverse Scholars from Pennsylvania:

Hector Colon-Rivera of Pittsburgh - in his first year of his psychiatry rotations at the Boston University Medical Center. He earned his undergraduate degrees from the University of Puerto Rico in economics and biology and earned a Doctor of Medicine from Ponce School of Medicine and Health Science. Participating in community support programs motivated him to pursue a career in a health-related field to treat physical and mental illnesses in underserved populations.

Milan Davis of Elkins Park is currently a freshman at Hampton University, where he intends to earn a bachelor of science in nursing. His goal is to work in a hospital or possibly have his own office as a nurse practitioner.

Alicia Henriquez of Philadelphia earned her bachelor of science at the University of Central Florida and is currently a third year medical student at Temple University School of Medicine. She grew up being conscious of the many health and social problems faced by impoverished populations due to the lack of resources and chose a career in health care to address those issues.

Rochanne Johnson of Bala Cynwyd is a first-year student at Temple University and hopes to work with the Department of Public Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Diego Motta of Scranton earned his bachelor of science in biomedical engineering from Syracuse University and is currently a second year medical student enrolled at The Commonwealth Medical College. He plans to pursue a career in either dermatology or a sub-specialty of internal medicine and work with underserved populations like the ones he grew up in.

By investing in these talented, committed and determined young people, we are ensuring that the future of healthcare is on the correct course. So thank you and congratulations Hector, Milan, Alicia, Rochanne and Diego for being the change we need in this industry. While we work to improve things from the top down, this new generation of inspired health care providers is destined to change it from the ground up.

For more information about the research and the Diverse Scholars Initiative, visit

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