Expanded Pipeline Program to Increase Diverse Health Care Workforce Through University-Community Partnerships

February 10, 2022

The West Michigan Health Careers Pipeline Program (WM HCPP), an initiative that introduces teens from underrepresented and minority populations to health science careers, is expanding in West Michigan.

WM HCPP pairs high school students with college students in a variety of health care programs, with the goal of increasing diversity in health care professions and improving primary care.

Partners include Spectrum Health and MSU College of Human Medicine, Western Michigan University College of Health and Human Services and Grand Valley State University. A $35,000 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation plus funding from Spectrum Health allowed WM HCPP to double in size.

“The last two years have illustrated the need for programs like this,” says Paul Jaklitsch, MD, president of medical staff services of Spectrum Health, which has pledged a total of $50,000 over five years to support the program. Funding will be used to purchase all materials needed for students in the program. “We are all interested in a variety of ways to bring more and varied professionals into the health care system.”

The program expansion includes an increase in participants, from 25 to 50 high school students, along with 50 undergraduate mentors from WMU and GVSU. In addition, WMU and MSU will engage with students from last year’s cohort to provide hands-on mentorships and job shadowing opportunities to increase networking, personal growth, and leadership qualities.

College of Human Medicine students work on curriculum development. “Because we are a community-based medical school, part of our mission is to promote outreach. This program allows our students to be more involved in our community,” said Lisa Lowery, MD, assistant dean for diversity and cultural initiatives at MSU College of Human Medicine and section chief of adolescent and young adult medicine at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Starting in February, a cohort of ninth and tenth graders from West Michigan high schools will meet weekly (and virtually) with undergraduate mentor students from health-related programs at WMU and GVSU.

The seven-week mentorship program is focused on health career exploration, college readiness and leadership skills development. Participants engage in activities and discussions to introduce various health careers to students, while allowing their college mentors to discuss their own experiences working toward those careers.

For more information, visit http://wmich.edu/hhs/pipeline.