Encouraging Latino students to pursue health care careers

Female student in lab

The program offers research fellowships for undergraduate students.

The College of Medicine will encourage Latino high school and college students to pursue careers in health care with the help of a five-year, $3.4 million federal grant.

The UIC Hispanic Center of Excellence will use the grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to improve the severe shortage of Latino physicians and other health care professionals.

“This grant will build programs that help us accomplish our mission to improve medical care for Latinos by increasing opportunities for students to pursue health careers, and enrich their education, with the goal of producing linguistically and culturally competent health practitioners,” said Jorge Girotti, director of the center and associate dean and director of admissions for the College of Medicine.

UIC established the Hispanic Center of Excellence more than 20 years ago to recruit and support Hispanic medical school faculty and medical students, and to encourage promising high school and college students to consider health careers.

The center will use the new grant to strengthen the educational pipeline that stretches from high school to senior faculty level.

Medicina Academy, a pilot program at four local high schools, will be expanded to include the transition from high school to college. The academy supports students in math and science and helps them network with students at other schools and universities.

An accompanying program for parents, Academia de Padres Leadership Institute, will explain how the higher education system works and how to select a college.

“We have even found that some parents were interested in exploring further education themselves — and even possible health careers,” Girotti said.

A summer program will introduce high school students to health careers, help with study and writing skills and prepare them for the ACT.

Through the College of Medicine’s Rockford campus, the program will reach into rural Illinois counties that have seen substantial increases in their Hispanic populations.

“We hope to expand the pipeline beyond the traditional urban populations,” Girotti said.

UIC has more Latino students than any other university in Illinois, Girotti said, and several programs are aimed at encouraging them to pursue health careers.

A new bridge program will work with UIC’s Latin American Recruitment and Educational Services on the transition from high school to college, particularly for students focused on health careers.

A summer program of undergraduate research fellowships will focus on investigations related to health disparities.

In a program that grew out of demand from the medical students themselves, the Hispanic Center of Excellence will offer a new, two-year curriculum in cultural and linguistic competence.

The final piece, Girotti said, “is to create programs for junior faculty that give them the tools they need to be effective academics — better teachers and better researchers who move into senior faculty positions and, we hope, stay on here at the College of Medicine.”

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