A $3 million grant over the next 5 years has been given to Creighton’s Department of Health Sciences– Multicultural and Community Affairs (HS-MACA) to help increase diversity in the healthcare professions. The federal Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) grant will fund HS-MACA’s Pipeline to Success Program.

Sade Kosoko-Lasaki, MD, Associate Vice Provost for Health Sciences and the director of HS-MACA, said that the goal of the new program is “to provide opportunities for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds to access education and training necessary to be health care providers, to improve retention in school, to increase matriculation and graduation rates, and to provide community-based clinical health professional training in primary care.”

The Pipeline to Success Program will join several other pipeline programs already offered through HS-MACA, each targeting different age groups from middle school to professional school. The new program will specifically target economically and educationally disadvantaged high school, college and professional school students by providing them with services such as tutoring, mentoring and financial support.

According to data from the American Association of Medical Colleges, only 11 percent of medical school graduates are people of color. Similarly, the American Dental Association reports that only 12 percent of dental school graduates are people of color. In Nebraska, of the 2117 practicing physicians, only 1.7 percent are African-American, while 2.3 percent are Hispanic.

The pipeline programs of HS-MACA are designed to bridge this gap. “Our aim is to bridge not just the educational disparity through pipeline programs,” Kosoko-Lasaki said. “We have to have an impact and touch the lives of the citizens because as long as we continue to have the wide gap, we will not be able to achieve what we aim to achieve.”

Kosoko-Lasaki expressed her passion for the program and its commitment to Creighton’s value of “men and women for and with others.”

“I look beyond myself. I look at, ‘What can I provide for others?’ And if it's in the area of encouraging and believing in people and helping them to achieve their dream, that's my calling,” said Kosoko-Lasaki.

“These are kids who had no idea what they could do,” Jeff Lang, MS, Assistant Director, Academic Enrichment, said. “And with support and guidance and coaching they go way beyond the limitations they set on themselves.”

“The greatest compliment to our program is to see kids who were in HCOP go in and do these things that they wanted to do but didn't truly know if they could do it. Think about how much talent we've missed. That's tragic,” Lang said. “We're limited by our size, and we can't be everything to everyone, but with HCOP we can do great things.”

Mervin Vassar, MPA, HS-MACA Assistant Director and Recruitment and Retention Manager, said that the grant will help to expand the services of the new program. “Obviously with running any of these programs, the financial support is important, so it allows us to bring on additional staff, different levels of expertise, and then offer different services to these students that we may not have been able to offer before.”

Since its founding in 2000, HS-MACA has provided services to over 10,000 disadvantaged students, some of whom are currently in healthcare professions.

“It doesn't matter your racial designation,” Kosoko-Lasaki said. “If you walk through the doors of HS-MACA and you say, ‘I need help. I need help because I am struggling.’ I will embrace you, I will guide you, and I will help you to believe in yourself because I will believe in you.”

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