SAN FRANCISCO, June 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Three extraordinary higher education leaders will be honored as the 2008 Champions of Health Professions Diversity by The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF). Juanita Barrena has played a pivotal role in promoting diversity in the health professions in California since becoming a faculty member at Sacramento State University in 1975. David Hayes-Bautista is an internationally recognized researcher on the culture and health of Latinos, and is a teacher and mentor at the University of California, Los Angeles. As dean of health at the City College of San Francisco, Linda Squires-Grohe has led important efforts to establish and expand health-occupation programs that graduate hundreds of students each year, the majority of whom are from underrepresented minority communities.
On June 9, 2008, TCWF will honor these three leaders at its sixth annual "Champions of Health Professions Diversity Award" ceremony in San Francisco. In recognition of their efforts to reduce entry barriers and to ensure the success of underrepresented minorities in the health workforce, the honorees will each receive a cash award of $25,000.
"These three leaders have proactively addressed barriers to entering higher education and training programs and developed support systems that have ensured the success of thousands of students who are now delivering culturally competent, language-proficient health care," said Gary L. Yates, TCWF president and CEO. "However, given the changing demographics of our state and the current shortage of health workers, we must encourage and support young people in California to consider pursuing jobs or careers in health fields."
Juanita Barrena, PhD, is currently a professor of biological sciences at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS), and director of the Science Educational Equity (SEE) program, which provides academic support in an effort to redress inequities in access to higher education and careers in the sciences and health professions. Since 1975, Barrena has helped students statewide improve access to health care in underserved communities through her advocacy efforts and through her many leadership positions, including CSUS department chair and chair of the faculty senate.
"I truly believe that our students are the real champions because they're the ones who take the tests and struggle with tremendous obstacles," said Barrena. "We are merely the ones who provide support and try to ensure that they have a safe place where they can develop and realize their potential."
David Hayes-Bautista, PhD, is currently a professor of medicine and director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture (CSLAC) at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. He established CSLAC, which houses his research and provides an important resource for medical students, health care providers, and public health officials working to care for Latino patients. He is also the director of Drew Center, dedicated to increasing the number of minority physicians in clinical and academic careers.
"The peak year for underrepresented minority enrollment in medical schools was 1992 and since then it has dropped off dramatically for Latinos, African-Americans and American Indians," said Hayes-Bautista. "My big message this year is the disappearing, underrepresented minority medical student. Our communities need those providers."
A staunch believer in the power of community college education, Dean Linda Squires-Grohe has led efforts to create, develop and expand 24 health-occupation programs that graduate more than 430 students per year, the majority of whom are from underrepresented minority communities. Working within the community-college system for more than 38 years in a variety of roles, she has served for over a decade as dean of the School of Health & Physical Education and as dean of the John Adams Campus at San Francisco City College.
"I think that a democracy is only as good as the community college that serves that community," said Squires-Grohe. "It is the one higher education institution that provides access to all. The door is open for everyone. We must make sure that we keep those doors open."
The California Wellness Foundation is an independent, private foundation created in 1992 with a mission to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention. The Foundation prioritizes eight issues for funding: diversity in the health professions, environmental health, healthy aging, mental health, teenage pregnancy prevention, violence prevention, women's health, and work and health. It also responds to timely issues and special projects outside the funding priorities.
Since its founding in 1992, TCWF has awarded 5,061 grants totaling more than $623 million. It is one of the state's largest private foundations, providing an average of $50 million in grants each year in pursuit of its mission. Please visit TCWF's website at http://www.tcwf.org for more information, including a newsroom section devoted to the Champions of Health Professions Diversity Award and the three honorees. High-resolution photos are also available.
SOURCE The California Wellness Foundation