How Loma Linda University Health is addressing racial disparities in the medical workforce

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ducation is one of the effective ways to help break the poverty cycle and increase job opportunity among minorities — who are more than two times as likely to be poor than non-Hispanic whites and represent only 8% of the STEM and 11% of the physician workforce — in the United States, according to Marino De Leon, PhD. 

As director of Loma Linda University School of Medicine Center for Health Disparities and Molecular Medicine(CHDMM), De Leon says he has witnessed how Black and Hispanic students have benefited over the years from educational interventions to increase their participation in biomedical fields.

“Minorities experience health disparities primarily because of a variety of social determinants of health, including poverty, inadequate access to healthcare, educational opportunities, and discrimination,” he says.

Established in 2005 with an award from the National Institutes on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the center has recruited and trained hundreds of minority students into the fields of medicine and health sciences — helping to diversify the workforce in the local community and nationwide.

The CHDMM brings together a diverse team of over 30 researchers that serve as mentors. This team has conducted hundreds of studies, published more than 150 scientific papers while training a new generation of health disparities scholars. 

The center’s investigators are actively doing research on biological determinants in cancer, diabetes, neuropathy pain, and traumatic stress that are linked with social determinants, which help explain mechanisms behind health disparities, De Leon says.

Researchers at the CHDMM are currently funded by grants from the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), National Cancer Institute, and the National Institutes for Diabetes and Kidney diseases. The center addresses health disparities through research by engaging the local community and expanding the participation of underrepresented minority students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and biomedical fields.

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