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“The Minority Scholars Program allowed me to go to the AcademyHealth Conference for the first time. It really is the premier conference to meet people who are doing health policy relevant work and research. It’s an amazing meeting.”

Kara Odom Walker, MD, MPH, MSHS
AcademyHealth/Aetna Foundation Minority Scholar

Diversifying Medicine and Health Care

Developing tomorrow’s leaders in medicine and health care research from underrepresented minority groups is an important part of our strategy to improve health outcomes for minority populations nationwide.

Studies have shown that a high proportion of health care providers from underrepresented minorities, such as African Americans and Latinos, return to their communities to practice medicine and are more likely to treat low-income, medically underserved and vulnerable populations.

In 2010, the Aetna Foundation formed a long-term partnership with AcademyHealth, a premier professional society for health services researchers and health policy analysts, to create the AcademyHealth/Aetna Foundation Minority Scholars Program.

The program provides professional development, mentoring and networking opportunities for graduate-level students, postdoctoral fellows and other researchers to attract more people to the field of racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes and access to health care.

Kara Odom Walker, MD, MPH, MSHS, was a member of the first cohort of 15 scholars, and her commitment to improving health outcomes for vulnerable populations is typical of the participants in the program. An assistant professor in the Department of Family & Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, she received an Aetna Foundation grant in 2010 to create a rigorous measurement tool to assess integrated care delivery models that focused on patients’ needs and expectations.

In addition to the AcademyHealth/Aetna Foundation Minority Scholars Program, we support the Four Directions Summer Research Program, which provides Native American undergraduates with mentored summer research opportunities in science and medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Other workforce development programs include the Aetna Health Professions Partnership Initiative at the University of Connecticut that introduces middle and high school students from Hartford’s disadvantaged neighborhoods to the fields of medicine, science and health care.