A new program at the UNT Health Science Center seeking to promote diversity in the physical therapy field has already born impressive results. The Allied Health Pathways program, which was developed in collaboration with the Health Science Center, the University of North Texas and local community colleges, only launched in September of 2012, yet in the course of that time, has already gone on to place almost fifty African American and Hispanic males on a path toward earning their doctorate in physical therapy.
From a diversity perspective, this program addresses a serious unmet need: according to a recent news release from the UNT news portal, “Fewer than 1 percent of practicing physical therapists are African American and Hispanic men, according to the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. This diversity gap was deemed a public health crisis by the Center for California Health Workforce Studies.”
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The notion of a lack of diversity as a “public health crisis” may seem like an overreach at first, however, M. Jean Keller, Ph.D., UNT professor of kinesiology and the project’s principal investigator, sought to put the issue in perspective, explaining how a lack of diversity across the entire spectrum of healthcare potentially leads to health disparities among minority populations — with physical therapy being no exception.
“This project is designed to close the gaps by increasing the awareness of allied health professionals and the number of male minorities who become licensed physical therapists,” Keller said, underscoring that “The need was great and, to the best of our knowledge, no program like this exists elsewhere.”
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The program’s approach is indeed a unique and comprehensive one, which works toward identifying qualified minority male undergraduates and giving them access to a suite of critical educational services, including academic intervention, professional development, mentoring, internship opportunities and other assistance, thanks to a $400,000 grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and an $85,000 matching gift from program partner, TruCare Solutions Inc.
While the Allied Health Pathways program indeed is a unique program, there are numerous other examples of how Texas as a state continues to lead in providing powerful education opportunities to minorities, in spite of prevailing misrepresentation about the state often reported in the national news. Just recently, the UT Health Science Center San Antonio School of Medicine Ranked in the Top 3 For Hispanics In Hispanic Business Magazine’s New National Ranking, along with Baylor College of Medicine.
Photo from UNT news portal