Students from underrepresented backgrounds are being recruited by Denver Health to take part in a mentorship program that makes it easier for them to get into health care graduate schools.
The Healthcare Interest Program (HIP) is directed at undergraduate students who attend the Auraria campuses of University of Colorado (CU) and the Metropolitan State University (MSU).
Program Associate Director and Program Instructor, Josina Romero O’Connell, MD, said HIP helps break down the barriers for minority and disadvantaged students who might otherwise face challenges getting into health care careers.
“Students from minority backgrounds can find it difficult to navigate their way in what is a complex system,” said Dr. O’Connell. “There are boxes they must check, which they don’t necessarily know how to go about checking. They might be working three or four jobs at a time.”
“Our focus is to bring aboard health care providers who look like and have been through the same experiences as the population that Denver Health serves.”
Josina Romero O’Connell, MD
At the same time, she said Denver Health’s patient population is particularly diverse and the program aimed to ensure diversity among health care providers reflected in the patients themselves.
“Our focus is to bring aboard health care providers who look like and have been through the same experiences as the population that Denver Health serves. Health care outcomes improve when patients are cared for by people who understand them,” added said Dr. O’Connell.
HIP is a rigorous, academic, year-long mentorship program and a 1-credit hour course per semester – through the Office of Experiential Learning at CU Denver and the Applied Learning Center at MSU Denver – that is coordinated, led and taught at Denver Health.
Students gain valuable experience as they shadow physicians and other health care providers in the hospital or clinic setting, attend lectures that connect basic science coursework with real-world health care topics and health disparities, and participate in community service.
HIP exposes participants to the environment at Denver Health, a safety-net hospital and community clinic program that in part serves the underserved population in downtown Denver.
HIP participant Alma Ochoa, of México, immigrated to the U.S. when she was 15 years old. Now a student at Metro State, she will graduate this May with a degree in biology and modern languages with a minor in chemistry, and plans to apply for medical school next year.
Her mentor is a physician’s assistant in charge of the hemodialysis emergency center. She usually spends four hours a day with her every other Friday.
“She’s an amazing mentor. I go behind her and listen to what she is talking to the patients about,” said Ochoa, “I also sit with her at her workstation and ask her questions about anything I want to learn.”
Students who want to sign up with HIP for 2018/2019 academic year have until March 28, 2018. The application form can be found at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1n9Ak50YfTDjQdN7DvH2VvLKKiq32tLK7/view.
Denver Health is a comprehensive, integrated organization providing level one care for all, regardless of ability to pay. Some 220,000 individuals, more than 25 percent of Denver’s population, receive their health care at Denver Health. One in three children in Denver is cared for by Denver Health physicians. As Colorado’s primary safety net institution, Denver Health has provided billions of dollars in uncompensated care. Denver Health is an integrated, efficient, high-quality health care system serving as a model for other safety-net institutions across the nation.
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