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WMJ Vol. 118 No. 2: Original Research

A Qualitative Study of Undergraduate Racial and Ethnic Minority Experiences and Perspectives on Striving to Enter Careers in the Health Professions

Jennifer Y. C. Edgoose, MD, MPH; Lisa Steinkamp, PT, PhD, MBA; Kong Vang, MPH; Adrienne Hampton, MD; Natalie Dosch, BS


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Background: Diversification of the health care workforce by race and ethnicity offers a strategy for addressing health care disparities. This study explored the experiences with pathways programming and mentoring of minority undergraduates aspiring to health professions careers.

Methods: We interviewed 21 minority undergraduates in 4 focus groups. The interviews explored participants’ backgrounds; perceptions of racial climate; exposure to health professions careers, mentors, and pathways programs; barriers to success; and desired support.

Results: Many participants described diminished confidence and feelings of isolation due to stereotyping and discrimination; some were empowered to pursue health care careers because of adversity. Common themes included desire for mentorship, earlier career exposure, and college readiness support.

Discussion: Minority students desire health career exposure, mentoring, pre-college advising, and a positive racial climate; unfortunately, these desires often go unmet.

Author Affiliations: University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (UWSMPH) (Vang, Dosch); Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, UWSMPH (Edgoose, Hampton); Physical Therapy Program, UWSMPH (Steinkamp); Madison, Wis.

Corresponding Author: Jennifer Y. C. Edgoose, MD, MPH, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, 100 Delaplaine Ct, Madison, WI 53715-1896; phone 608.241.9020; email Jennifer.edgoose@fammed.wisc.edu.

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Mindy Smith for her editorial support and encouragement.

Funding/Support: This project was supported by the University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine and Community Health Small Grant and Innovation Fund.

Financial Disclosures: None declared.