Quidest Sheriff, a Blackwood resident and student of osteopathic medicine, has been awarded a scholarship from United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative to pursue a career in health care.
Sheriff is a fourth-year osteopathic medical student at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey School of Osteopathic Medicine. She holds a bachelor of science in biological sciences and developmental psychology from Rutgers University and hopes to open her own clinic, specializing in international medicine and women’s health. Sheriff is founder of the nonprofit organization Orthodox GEMS (St. Gabriel’s Mentoring, Empowering and Solidarity) which empowers young women in the professional, educational, spiritual and social realms.
According to the American Medical Association and Association of American Medical Colleges, the number of multicultural health professionals is disproportionately low when compared to the overall population. For example, while about 15 percent of the U.S. population is Hispanic/Latino, only 5 percent of physicians and 4 percent of registered nurses are Hispanic/Latino. About 12 percent of the population is African American, yet only 6 percent of physicians and 5 percent of registered nurses are African American.
Given the changing demographics in the United States and the volumes of people entering the health care system due to the Affordable Care Act, there is an even greater need for a more diverse health care workforce.
Research shows that when patients are treated by health professionals who share their language, culture and ethnicity, they are more likely to accept and adopt the medical treatment they receive. Increasing the diversity of health care providers will reduce the shortage of medical professionals in underserved areas, reduce inequities in academic medicine and address variables – such as language barriers – that make it difficult for patients to navigate the health care system.
United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative is one facet of the foundation’s commitment to build and strengthen the health workforce. United Health Foundation supports additional programs like STEMPREP, which aims to produce the next generation of researchers in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medical fields. The foundation also supports A.T. Still University’s Connect the Docs Graduate Loanship Program that provides loan repayments to four qualifying graduates who secure jobs in community health centers.
United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative, through its partner organizations, awarded $1.2 million in scholarships in the 2012-2013 school year to 200 students from diverse backgrounds, with nearly $2 million in scholarships announced for 2013-2014. This is part of the foundation’s ongoing commitment to build a more diverse health care workforce.
By the end of 2013, United Health Foundation will have awarded $10 million in scholarships to diverse students pursing health careers.
For more information about the Diverse Scholars Initiative, visit www.unitedhealthfoundation.org/dsi.html.