CSUN Receives $2 Million to Increase Diversity in Health Care Careers

California State University, Northridge has been awarded a $2 million grant to bridge the educational gap of Hispanics and other underrepresented groups in health care-related graduate programs. Photo by Lee Choo.

California State University, Northridge has been awarded a five-year, $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to address the educational gap of Hispanics and other underrepresented groups in health care-related graduate programs.

The grant will fund a new program in CSUN’s College of Health and Human Development, CAMINO, which in Spanish translates to “pathway.” The ultimate goal of the initiative is to increase the number of Hispanics and other underrepresented students completing their graduate education and going on to careers in health care.

“The health care field is one of the fastest-growing employment sectors in the United States,” said Sylvia Alva, dean of the College of Health and Human Development. “Concurrent with projected national shortages in health care is the demand for a more ethnically diverse health care and public health workforce. Research shows a strong link between a culturally diverse workforce able to provide high-quality, culturally competent patient care and improved health outcomes from the population being served.

“The need to increase and widen the pipeline to careers and occupations in health care is critically important to the San Fernando Valley, the region and the nation,” Alva continued. “I am thrilled that CSUN is going to be part of the effort to address that need.”

Sloane Burke Winkleman

Sloane Burke Winkleman

CSUN public health professor Sloane Burke Winkleman, project director of CAMINO, will work with faculty throughout the College of Health and Human Development — including faculty in communication disorders, environmental and occupational health, gerontology, health administration, kinesiology, nutrition, public health and physical therapy — to develop strategies that address the specific needs of Hispanic graduate students in an effort to improve their acceptance and retention rates in health care-related majors.

“With this grant comes great opportunity,” said Burke Winkleman. “We can increase the university’s capacity to address the specific needs of Hispanic post-baccalaureate students in health-related disciplines. By showing these promising students the routes to take to reach their graduate degrees, we will see increased participation in allied health professions in the years to come.”

Part of the initiative will include peer and faculty mentoring, the establishment of a student learning community, career counseling, networking and professional development opportunities, scholarships, graduate research showcases and assistantships and a speaker series featuring leaders in regional health-care fields. Outreach to families to inform them about their students’ graduate school and career paths also will be a key component of the program.

“Many of the students who will be part of this program are first-generation college students,” said Burke Winkleman. “Even with having an undergraduate degree, it can be a challenge to navigate an entirely new environment and ensure one has the skills and resources for some of the complexities of graduate school.

“At the same time, as the first in their families to go to college, some students meet resistance from family members who don’t understand why they are going on to graduate school, and may feel pressure to fulfill more expected roles and responsibilities that don’t involve continuing education,” she added.

Burke Winkleman noted that about 40 percent of the undergraduates in the College of Health and Human Development are Latino, but that number drops to about 17 percent — even as low as 5 percent in some programs — of the graduate students in the college.

The new initiative will provide a more holistic environment for graduate students pursuing health care majors. Burke Winkleman said it will take into account the unique experiences of first-generation college students during the application process, as well as to build infrastructure and providing meaningful opportunities to increase admissions and retention while they are graduate students.

“We need to provide our students with support and a place where they feel connected,” she said. “We tell students that they need a college degree to succeed. But when their career goal requires more than a bachelor’s degree, we need to provide them with a road map and an environment where they can not only succeed, but thrive, and are prepared for competitive and rewarding careers in health care.”

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