Campus public health fellowship to create pipeline, diversify medical field

A UC Berkeley School of Public Health fellowship program funded by Blue Shield of California will begin this fall to create a pipeline for underrepresented communities in the medical field.

This new program, called the Blue Shield of California Health Equity Fellowship program, will target students from African American, Native American, Latine and Pacific Islander backgrounds, according to the Director of Philanthropy at the School of Public Health Morry Rao Hermón. Hermón added that funding for this project will come solely from Blue Shield of California as $7 million throughout five years.

“It’s about addressing a lack of diversity in health care professions, particularly in senior leadership positions, with data analytic skills to address racial health care disparities,” Hermón said.

Graduate students pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees admitted into the program will be given training in how to use data and analytics to improve public health and equity in their communities, according to Blue Shield spokesperson Mark Seelig.

A goal of Blue Shield is to hire many of the fellows upon graduation, Seelig added.

Seelig noted that in addition to financial aid, the program will provide fellows with professional experience such as internships and access to mentors. Fellows will also have access to early outreach and recruitment, tutoring and career services, educational and mental health counseling, networking opportunities with fellowship alumni and opportunities to apply biostatistics and advanced analytics expertise to real business challenges.

“Many of our students will get a nice financial aid package to help alleviate their debt burden when they graduate,” Hermón said.

Currently, minorities in the medical field make up a total of 40%, according to Hermón, and a lack of financial aid is a large factor for this number.

Over five years, the program will serve about 100 master’s and doctoral candidates in primarily underrepresented communities in the healthcare industry in California, according to Seelig.

“The health inequities that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic have shown us the need to build healthcare policies and practices in a culturally sensitive way,” said D.D. Johnice, vice president of the Health Transformation Lab at Blue Shield, in an email. “We cannot achieve health equity without growing and supporting diverse, top talent.”

Contact Luis Saldana at [email protected].

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