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Urban Universities Diversify the Healthcare Workforce

Data-informed decision-making and a stronger, more effective healthcare workforce. This is one of the goals of the Urban Universities for Health Equity through Alignment, Leadership, and Transformation of the Health Workforce (UU4HEALTH). To achieve this goal requires a systematic process for identifying metrics that can be used to help university leaders understand the state of diversity among their institutions’ student population and faculty, and how this could impact our nation’s future healthcare workforce. Equally important, the data for the metrics must be feasible to collect across health profession colleges—consistently and in a sustainable manner. This article describes the UU4HEALTH initiative and Community Science’s involvement.

To ensure that everyone in our nation has access to quality health care, it is essential that we develop a workforce with the capacity to meet the needs of a population that is becoming increasingly diverse. UU4HEALTH is a partnership between the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU)/Association of Public Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). UU4HEALTH aims to bring together urban university presidents and health profession deans to strengthen institutional capacity, develop metrics, and facilitate a National Learning Collaborative to develop the necessary talent to improve the health of urban underserved and minority populations. 

UU4HEALTH includes five participating universities: Cleveland State University (CSU)/Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), SUNY Downstate, University of Cincinnati, University of Missouri Kansas City, and University of New Mexico. Specifically, UU4HEALTH will work with these five universities to:

  1. Increase the quality of evidence and use of data to inform decisions and actions related to developing a health workforce that can contribute to the reduction of health disparities;
  2. Identify measures by which institutions can adopt and use to assess progress and drive greater impact; and
  3. Disseminate new knowledge, tools, and resources to assist universities and academic medical centers in increasing their capacity and contributions.

Community Science was engaged by AAMC and APLU specifically to facilitate the process of establishing a core set of metrics that the five participating universities as well as other urban universities can use in the future to monitor their efforts to diversify the nation’s healthcare workforce. These metrics fall into three broad categories: educational opportunity, access, and competence. We work with each participating university to determine the relevant metrics that work for their institutions and to identify the sources of data for these metrics. We take an iterative approach whereby we started with the leadership of one of the participating sites to determine the core metrics of interest. Then, we review these metrics with representatives from all the relevant offices or departments including admissions, diversity office, and the Office of Institutional Research. With each round of review, we become increasingly clear about the variables that the participating university tracks related to each metric, the data available, and the best source for the data. The results of this inventory will form the basis for an institutional dashboard that can be used by the institution’s leadership to make related decisions about developing the talent to improve the health of urban underserved and minority populations. The results of our inventory will allow AAMC and APLU to create a menu of metrics from which other urban universities can select as most applicable for their mission, context, and decision-making needs.

During this effort, we have learned about some of the participating universities’ efforts to identify and develop the talent needed to improve the health of urban underserved and minority populations, and to document the results of these efforts. We have also obtained a preliminary insight into the challenge of coordinating the various data tracking and documentation efforts across the schools of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, and allied health within a university. Such coordination and, ultimately, the dashboard require strong commitment from top leadership commitment and systemic changes within the university.

According to Malika Fair, Director, Public Health Initiatives Portfolio at the AAMC, “We are delighted to work with Dr. Kien Lee and her team who have helped us to refine key health workforce metrics and validate data sources to identify specific measures for use by urban university leaders. The research and evaluative expertise of Community Science is invaluable as we move forward with the development of a menu of metrics to assist university leaders in developing institutional dashboards for action planning to improve the health workforce and address the health needs of an increasingly diverse population.” Community Science, through this effort, is contributing to a national effort that helps advance our company’s mission to create healthy, just, and equitable communities.

To learn more about UU4HEALTH, please visit

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