Guest Column: COM-Phoenix Office of Outreach and Multicultural Affairs Fosters Diverse Health Work Force

Guest Column: COM-Phoenix Office of Outreach and Multicultural Affairs Fosters Diverse Health Work Force

By Patricia Rodríguez, M.S.Associate Director, Office of Outreach and Multicultural Affairs College of Medicine–Phoenix
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Patricia Rodriguez
Patricia Rodriguez

It is an exciting time to be the new associate director of the Office of Outreach and Multicultural Affairs for the College of Medicine-Phoenix.

The campus is growing fast! CoM-P is located in the heart of downtown, at Van Buren Street and Seventh Street. It occupies the historic buildings of what was once Phoenix Union High School, and many people in the area have fond memories of this site. One of my goals as associate director is to build upon the goodwill that already exists among community members in order to develop a solid foundation for our outreach programs. I believe it is important not to lose sight of the fact that we are a medical school that is part of the only land-grant institution in the state. The mission of the office is to foster a health work force that is representative of our state’s diverse population, and one that is culturally sensitive and responsive to the health care needs of our ethnically and linguistically diverse communities. Therefore, our outreach programs have to reflect our college’s commitment to serving the communities of Arizona.

The Outreach and Multicultural Affairs office in Phoenix is working with its counterpart in Tucson to develop outreach programs that stimulate students’ interest in the health professions and in going to college. We also strive to cultivate an understanding of the nature of health disparities and the concept of cultural competence for health care providers. We never lose sight of the important work we do in developing Arizona’s future health work force. Now that the College of Medicine offers the full four-year medical school curriculum in Phoenix, our office will become more involved in recruitment for the medical school, as well as retention of students.

One program that we intend to expand is Med-Start. Med-Start is the College of Medicine’s long-enduring and respected summer enrichment program for high school juniors. In the 1970s through the mid-1980s, Med-Start had federal funding that enabled the program to be offered at all three universities. After that initial funding ended, Med-Start was offered only at the Tucson site. Five years ago, the College of Medicine re-established the program in Phoenix but it has not been able to expand beyond 18 students. However, we are very busy creating new partnerships to support future expansion. Given the size of the greater Phoenix area and increasing interest in health careers, the program is in high demand. Some of our current partners include the Maricopa Community College District’s Achieving a College Education Program, the state’s Area Health Education Centers and the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona.

In addition to Med-Start Phoenix, we plan to expand other programs. Many people do not realize that this office was part of the College of Medicine’s earliest efforts in establishing strong community relationships and placing services in Phoenix to support the third- and fourth-year medical students who were doing their clinical rotations here. The office was the third College of Medicine office to open, in 1994. So we have actually built up a number of activities and programs through the years. For example, we work closely with student organizations such as the Arizona State University chapter of Fostering and Achieving Cultural Equity and Sensitivity (FACES) in the Health Professions. We also work with the medical students, community, and professional groups like the Arizona Latin American Medical Association (ALMA) for service projects such as health fairs. Last, but not least, our office hosts an annual mock interviews workshop for medical school applicants. Our newer efforts will focus on establishing student and faculty advisory groups to provide guidance and input on our programs and activities.

In the final analysis, our work is about students and community. If we do our jobs well, the future health work force will be reflective of the diversity of our state and skillful in meeting the health care needs of all Arizonans.

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