Five Students on the Importance of Diversity
Professional school graduate Virgie Fields, health professional students Kaylann Kauv, Lyubov Slashcheva, and Qasim Kazmi, as well as pre-health undergraduate Alexis Savage share their thoughts on diversity and what it means to them as students, and what it means for their future as healthcare professionals.
Kauv has been connected to the Division for Health Sciences Diversity since 2009 as a VCU Acceleration student. Moving into her third year at the VCU School of Pharmacy, Kauv sees diversity as a call to action: an exchange with positive implications where healthcare provider and patient bond, grow mutually and in effect facilitate more nuanced and effective care.
“I think that some people have had negative experiences with healthcare, or believe that it might be ‘solely run on lab values’ or ‘this test or this blood pressure number,’ but I’ve been fortunate to meet many healthcare professionals, including pharmacists and doctors, who strive to create [a greater] narrative with their patient, and emphasize to us as students the importance of creating this bond.”
As a fourth year in the VCU School of Dentistry, Slashcheva has seen support for her own efforts with the student organization, Inter Health Professionals Alliance, which the DHSD sponsored in 2012 and 2013. The IHPA and Slashcheva’s work highlight another aspect of diversity, different health professions working together to provide care.
“Healthcare is a great field to be involved in right now [because] it’s rapidly progressing and expanding in its use of technology and I think interprofessional collaboration is definitely the way forward…you need a wide variety of perspectives to be effective, no matter which field you’re in…
My vision for the future of healthcare sciences is culturally competent care where all the patient’s needs are provided for with an interprofessional team working towards the goals of that patient.”
A peer of Kauv’s from the Acceleration cohort, Fields is a Harvard TH Chan School for Public Health graduate, having studied epidemiology, focusing on infectious diseases, chronic diseases and social disparities. Knowing more about the populations being served is key to better healthcare access and increased quality of care for those populations.
“[W]e learn something new from someone that’s totally different from ourselves and I feel that in order to grow and make a difference in this world, we have to know each other’s background [and] how to communicate with other people,” Fields explains. “I feel that diversity is very important and we have to be competent in other people’s cultures and their knowledge in order to gain our own knowledge.”
Kazmi, a peer of Fields and Kauv from the 2009 VCU Acceleration cohort entering his third year with the VCU School of Medicine, is equally concerned about health disparities. Kazmi firmly believes that diversity will play a large role in the approach to bridging the gaps and breaking barriers to healthcare access.
“Diversity is the key to innovation. It seeds innovation [by] recognizing our differences, but in such a way that we celebrate our differences… The further we progress down our professional health track we become so immersed in our environment in our profession, for me it’s medicine. But [VCU] Acceleration was so important because they open your perspective and model the lense in which we view healthcare from,” Kazmi explains, “That lense is all inclusive in realizing the potential that we have when we work together rather than apart to fight health disparities.”
Senior undergraduate Savage believes in the diversification of individuals represented within healthcare as much as interdisciplinary approaches to treating diverse populations. Even when she was a freshman in the 2011 Acceleration class, the long-lasting implications of a diverse workforce were not lost on Savage.
“[I]t’s important to see yourself represented wherever you are. [F]or example in healthcare, when you see a physician who looks like you or has a similar background to you, it’s easier to relate. Young kids growing up will look at the profession and say ‘I can do this one day,’ because they see someone like them,” says Savage. “Diversity means inclusion of different backgrounds, races, majors, just everyone coming together as one. That’s what VCU is like to me and that’s why I chose to go here because you meet people from all different walks of life.”
Looking back at the Division for Health Sciences Diversity over the last five years, we are proud to know and be affiliated with such bright and diverse students. The success of our programs comes from what these individuals bring to them. From the wide range of responses to “why is diversity important,” it is evident that these students are thinking critically about its implications for healthcare and are using resources to initiate these changes now. It has been a pleasure knowing and working with these students over the years and we hope that you are inspired by them as well.
Virgie Fields, Kalyann Kauv, Qasim Kazmi, and Alexis Savages are all alumni of the VCU Acceleration program. Be sure to check out their alumni profiles to read more about their past accomplishments and future goals!
Five Leaders at VCU on the Importance of Diversity
Diversifying the health sciences community is one of the goals of DHSD. This is consistent with the goals of VCU’s Quest for Distinction: “Recruit and retain talented and diverse students who will graduate at a higher rate and will contribute to a highly skilled workforce.”
These five leaders understand the importance of diversity at VCU, and we celebrate the role DHSD continues to play in diversifying the health sciences community.
Dr. Rosalyn Hargraves, Associate Professor, VCU School of Education “It’s the diversity of the student body; it’s the diversity of thought that has kept me here for 18 years. Everything that I hold as core values when it comes to my career, I feel like I can accomplish here at VCU. “
Kevin Harris, Assistant Vice President, Academic and Diversity Affairs. The Division for Health Sciences Diversity (DHSD) is a direct result of the commitment of VCU to ensure our health profession programs are training a diverse cadre of students to address the healthcare needs of Virginia and the nation. Beyond this, the division has amplified it efforts over the past three years to recruit and prepare students from central Virginia for careers across the health professions. Over time these efforts are expected to increase the number of practitioners who are devoted to improving health outcomes in communities that surround VCU.
Dr. Catherine Howard, Vice Provost, Division of Community Engagement, At VCU, “We believe that learning and creating new knowledge can happen anywhere. “
Dr. Wanda Mitchell, Vice President for Inclusive Excellence: “You can’t have excellence without capitalizing on the diversity of people and their rich backgrounds, experiences, cultures, perspectives, talents and values.”
President Michael Rao, “Diversity is absolutely essential at a research university, just as it is in life. It is an indispensable part of the learning process. It shapes what we learn and how we learn it, how we solve problems, how we interact with one another and how we think about ourselves and each other.”
The Road Ahead
Over the next couple of months, staff in the Division for Health Sciences Diversity will be posting blogs celebrating five years of our work as a division. Here’s a look at the schedule:
October 2014 – 5 Publications That You Should Check Out
December 2014 – 5 Interviews & quotes from University and community leaders about the impact that the Division for Health Sciences Diversity has made at the VCU and in the community.
December 2014 – 5 Community Service Projects: The impact in our community
January 2015 – “Changing The Face of Health Sciences”
February 2015 – “5 Interviews & quotes from University and community leaders about the impact that the Division for Health Sciences Diversity has made at the VCU and in the community.”
March 2015 – 5 Profiles of our Students
April 2015 – 5 Students on the “Quest” to “Make It Real”
May 2015 – Interactive Diversity Word Wall: Looking ahead to the next 5 years
I’m sure you’ve noticed by now the theme of “5” in each blog. We want these blogs to be informative, but also fun. We hope you will come back throughout the year and visit our blog posts as we celebrate five years and look to the future. Please be sure to leave your thoughts and reflections on the blog. We’d love to hear from you. Thank you.
5 Publications Supporting the Division for Health Sciences Diversity
Programs and initiatives at VCU are gaining nationwide attention for their impact on supporting diversity and inter professional collaboration in the health sciences. The Division for Health Sciences Diversity is proud to contribute to this wealth of research that substantiates our mission advance inclusion in health science education. We encourage you to browse the scholarly articles various DHSD staff members have published to learn more about how VCU is making it real through research and innovation.
VanderWielen, L.M., Do, E.K., Diallo, H.I., LaCoe, K.N., Nguyen, N.L., Parikh, S.A., Rho, H.Y., Enurah, A.S., Dumke, E.K., and Dow, A.W. (2014). Interprofessional collaboration led by health professional students: A case study of the inter health professionals alliance at Virginia Commonwealth University. Journal of Research in Interprofessional Practice and Education, 3(3):1-13.
Internationally recognized health experts have identified the need for an interdisciplinary approach to meet the healthcare needs of the 21st century, but academic institutions have been slow to take action. In response, eight health professional students at Virginia Commonwealth University developed a student-led organization, the Inter Health Professionals Alliance (IHPA), to foster a collaborative, interdisciplinary environment among health professional students.
Dumke, E.K., Leibowitz, S. and Harris, K. (2013). VCU Acceleration: What we have learned about improving educational outcomes for incoming pre-health students from diverse backgrounds. The Advisor. September 2013.
Retention and graduation rates have been an area of concern for pre-health students who are required to take rigorous math and science courses as they transition to college. At Virginia Commonwealth University, the VCU Acceleration program was launched to improve retention and graduation rates among incoming pre-health students from diverse backgrounds. The program combined the summer bridge program and an academic year living-learning community. There is strong empirical evidence that these types of interventions assist with educational outcomes. Additional factors that have played into the success of the program include institutional support, a sustainable infrastructure, and evaluation of the program. Details of the program and educational outcomes in terms of retention, graduation, and matriculation to health professions programs are presented, followed by key considerations.
Dumke, E.K. and Harris, K. VCU Acceleration: A comprehensive approach to promoting first-year success of pre-health students. National Conference on Students in Transition, Oct. 19-21, 2013, Atlanta, GA.
The VCU Acceleration program exists within the larger context of the VCU Health Sciences and Health Careers Pipeline. This series of programs endeavors to increase student diversity within each of the five health professions schools at the university. Each program within the VCU Pipeline is unique in its individual goals and objectives, however, each program strives to provide students with the knowledge necessary to promote informed decision making as they strive to reach their academic and professional goals. VCU
Acceleration fills the need for a program designed for students as they transition to undergraduate study.
VCU Division for Health Sciences Diversity Annual Report. (2013). Health Sciences and Health Careers Pipeline Programs. Retrieved from http://www.dhsd.vcu.edu/media/health-sciences/dhsd/pdf/121207-06HealthScienceDiversity_Ann_Report_proof.pdf
VCU Division for Health Sciences Diversity Annual Report. (2011). Cultivating Diversity within the Health Professions. Retrieved from http://www.dhsd.vcu.edu/media/health-sciences/dhsd/pdf/HlthSciDiversityAR1011.pdf
The annual report exemplifies the benefits of diversity and collaboration in action. Use these publications to learn more about the dynamic arrangement of programs and resources that work collectively to identify, prepare, and support future healthcare professionals. Compare growth from the 2010-2011 academic year to the 2012-2013 academic year to see a clear illustration of the impact VCU Pipeline programs have on a wide spectrum of students across VCU, Virginia, and the greater nation.
Why are we Celebrating 5 Years?
5 Facts About Some Of Our VCU Pipeline Programs
In 2009, the VCU Division for Health Sciences Diversity was created to serve as the central office for the VCU Pipeline Programs. Our goal is to reach promising students from all communities, expose them to the incredible variety of careers in health sciences, excite them about pursuing a profession in the health care and prepare them for that path. Here are some facts about two of our VCU Pipeline Programs, the Health Sciences Academy and VCU Acceleration.
• The Health Sciences Academy has graduated 563 high school students from their program. Thirty-three program alumni were surveyed 5 years after completing the health careers exploration program; survey results show 100% were enrolled in a two or four year degree program. 82% were pursuing science or healthcare related undergraduate degrees. 21% of Health Sciences Academy program graduates are attending VCU for undergraduate studies.
• 237 VCU student mentors have provided 4740 hours of service mentoring Health Sciences Academy high school students, completing 631 hours of service-learning coursework dedicated to assisting high school students with developing college success
• VCU Acceleration started in 2005 with 24 students and now has 38 students enrolled.
• Currently, there are VCU Acceleration alumni in all 5 health professions schools – VCU School of Allied Health Professions, VCU School of Dentistry, VCU School of Pharmacy, VCU School of Medicine, and VCU School of Nursing.
• The first cohort of VCU Acceleration had a student whose mother’s story was the feature of an HBO movie called Life Support. Mother’s character was played by Queen Latifah.
Learn more about VCU Acceleration, Health Sciences Academy, and the full list of our pipeline programs by visiting www.dhsd.vcu.edu