California Health Professions Consortium

Alameda County Health Pipeline Partnership (ACHPP): Young Men of Color Focus Group

The fact that males of color are underrepresented in health professions is an ever pervasive message that those of us involved in pipeline programs and health workforce diversity efforts hear and feel concerned about day in and day out. It is something we are reminded of as we evaluate our program demographics, only to see 10% to 20% of students are African American or Latino males; and yet these are primary subgroups we aim to serve.

 

In 2009, the Alameda County Health Pipeline Partnership (ACHPP) conducted an analysis of the demographics the coalition was serving—and the results were eye-opening. We found there was both a low recruitment and retention rate of African American and Latino males in ACHPP programs, but the reasons for these low numbers were not clear. Therefore, we decided to investigate this issue further through focus groups, where we could hear exactly what young men of color have to say.

 

From February to April 2010, ACHPP conducted focus groups with young men of color to hear their perspectives and gain in-depth understanding about three primary questions:

  1. Why are African American and Latino males under-represented in ACHPP programs?
  2. What are barriers and motivators to participation in health pipeline programs and health jobs/careers?
  3. What are recommended strategies to better recruit and retain African American and Latino males in ACHPP programs?

We aimed to gain rich perspectives directly from the voices of young men in our programs, as well as those who for whatever reason are not involved in or did not complete a pipeline program. A total of 4 focus groups were conducted with 32 young men of color (YMOC) who represent the key subpopulations that ACHPP programs serve, including students in middle school, high school, community college/college, and Camp Sweeney (a program within a juvenile facility which outreaches, assists and trains at-risk, underrepresented minority youth in health careers). Participants lived in various cities in Alameda County and represented 17 different schools. The largest percentage of participants identified as Black/African American (44%), followed by Latino (20%); others identified as Asian, American Indian/Alaskan Native (AIAN), White/Caucasian, or Other.

 

The young men provided a wealth of information, touching upon topics such as male identity, role models, and experiences at home, school, and pipeline programs. Our findings focused on key barriers, motivators, and supports needed for YMOC to participate in health pipeline programs and health jobs/careers. The study concludes with specific recommendations so ACHPP programs can address these identified key factors and better recruit and retain African American and Latino males.

 

In summary, ACHPP will utilize this data and the specific recommendations to improve its health pipeline programs.  One focus group participant describes the potential difference that effective pipeline programs can make: “It gave me inspiration and it taught me about the benefits, what you could make if you get into the health profession and it sparked interest that I never had.” It is our hope that the knowledge provided will help our programs provide such an experience for a greater number of young men of color.

 

With that, we urge you to share your thoughts and experiences on this topic:

Have you seen this problem of recruiting and retaining young men of color in your program? How have you addressed it?

How can pipeline programs specifically cater to needs of YMOC?

What, if any, local or state initiatives address this gap in education and health pipeline programs?

 

If you are interested in accessing the full report on our focus group findings, please contact the ACHPP office.

 

Alameda County Health Pipeline Partnership

1000 San Leandro Blvd, Suite 200

San Leandro, CA 94577

510-618-2043

Nelly Gonzalez: Nelly.gonzalez@acgov.org

Ijeoma Okwandu: Ijeoma.okwandu@acgov.org

 

The Alameda County Health Pipeline Partnership is a consortium of 17 organizations that aim to increase the diversity of the healthcare workforce by providing mentorship, academic enrichment, leadership development, and career exposure to disadvantaged and minority youth. 

Tags: African, American, Latino, care, color, disparities, diversity, health, males, men, More…minority, underrepresentation, workforce

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I have been overwhelmed by this issue for a long time.  I am a white woman - so I often feel ill-equipped to make a difference in the lives of our YMOC.  Then I reflect on a few key relationships with YMOC and think, "I did ok".  There are times when I think of YMOC success stories as the "Holy Grail" of pipeline work, like if I can increase those success stories, then the work our program has done has really made a difference in the world, and I can justify not letting my position go to some role model more appropriate for the YMOC.  Recently I had 3 african american males in my high school program and 3 women of color.  They came every Tuesday and Thursday and I thought "balance".  Then one of my african american males was suspended, then he was let go...lack of attendance and lack of communication.  Another of my young men just lost his best friend to gun violence and he is barely hanging on.  His attendance at school and internship has dropped.  He tends to blame his lack of engagement on on others.  I don't blame him.  He is in a rough spot.  He is seeing a counselor at school and we have spoken about his interests and we have worked hard to put him in clinical areas that match with his interests...but he says he isn't learning anything.  He did learn something at CPR class with Mr. Wellington Jackson - it stands out in his mind as a high point.  Mr. Jackson is the perfect role model.  He's african american.  He's male.  He is a firefighter.  We've heard it many times, and the message does not change...african american males need african american role models.  I can match the students better.  I will match the students better.
That's supposed to say "african american males need african american male role models." :)

Heather MacDonald-Fine said:
I have been overwhelmed by this issue for a long time.  I am a white woman - so I often feel ill-equipped to make a difference in the lives of our YMOC.  Then I reflect on a few key relationships with YMOC and think, "I did ok".  There are times when I think of YMOC success stories as the "Holy Grail" of pipeline work, like if I can increase those success stories, then the work our program has done has really made a difference in the world, and I can justify not letting my position go to some role model more appropriate for the YMOC.  Recently I had 3 african american males in my high school program and 3 women of color.  They came every Tuesday and Thursday and I thought "balance".  Then one of my african american males was suspended, then he was let go...lack of attendance and lack of communication.  Another of my young men just lost his best friend to gun violence and he is barely hanging on.  His attendance at school and internship has dropped.  He tends to blame his lack of engagement on on others.  I don't blame him.  He is in a rough spot.  He is seeing a counselor at school and we have spoken about his interests and we have worked hard to put him in clinical areas that match with his interests...but he says he isn't learning anything.  He did learn something at CPR class with Mr. Wellington Jackson - it stands out in his mind as a high point.  Mr. Jackson is the perfect role model.  He's african american.  He's male.  He is a firefighter.  We've heard it many times, and the message does not change...african american males need african american role models.  I can match the students better.  I will match the students better.
Heather, thank you for your testimony. It gave direct insight into some of the challenges pipeline programs are facing and the pivotal part they play in youths' circle of support. You mention you feel you can and will continue to improve what you are already doing and that's very inspirational. We need more Heathers in the world

Heather MacDonald-Fine said:
I have been overwhelmed by this issue for a long time.  I am a white woman - so I often feel ill-equipped to make a difference in the lives of our YMOC.  Then I reflect on a few key relationships with YMOC and think, "I did ok".  There are times when I think of YMOC success stories as the "Holy Grail" of pipeline work, like if I can increase those success stories, then the work our program has done has really made a difference in the world, and I can justify not letting my position go to some role model more appropriate for the YMOC.  Recently I had 3 african american males in my high school program and 3 women of color.  They came every Tuesday and Thursday and I thought "balance".  Then one of my african american males was suspended, then he was let go...lack of attendance and lack of communication.  Another of my young men just lost his best friend to gun violence and he is barely hanging on.  His attendance at school and internship has dropped.  He tends to blame his lack of engagement on on others.  I don't blame him.  He is in a rough spot.  He is seeing a counselor at school and we have spoken about his interests and we have worked hard to put him in clinical areas that match with his interests...but he says he isn't learning anything.  He did learn something at CPR class with Mr. Wellington Jackson - it stands out in his mind as a high point.  Mr. Jackson is the perfect role model.  He's african american.  He's male.  He is a firefighter.  We've heard it many times, and the message does not change...african american males need african american role models.  I can match the students better.  I will match the students better.
Status Update:  I will call our young man J.  J is very interested in sports medicine.  J is a 6'7" basketball player.  Prior to writing the post, I had assigned him to the specialty clinics cast room and to the Cardio Clinic.  After posting, I moved J a rotation in the morgue (at his request) and partnered him with our morgue attendant, an ACMC employee for the past 50 years.  He is a very calm, tall african american man.  I told him about my student and asked him if he was willing to take him on once per week.  He said yes.  My student was invited by our morgue attendant to return twice per week.  His attendance improved and his engagement increased significantly.  Our morgue attendant put the student to work on an educational poster about the achilles tendon and femur; using a real achilles tendon and femur.  He is getting back on track. Yay!

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