In response to the widespread shortage of health care professionals across the country, a number of higher education institutions over the past year have opened new colleges and schools to educate and train the next generation of health industry professionals — and they are prioritizing the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as part of their efforts to address health care inequities and workforce concerns. Below are just a few examples of these new programs.

George Mason University, College of Public Health

The College of Public Health at George Mason University (Mason) launched in November. Going forward, the multidisciplinary college will utilize public health education, research, and practice to eliminate health care disparities in underserved communities and develop a diverse workforce through graduate and undergraduate programs. It is the first college in Virginia to focus primarily on public health.

The college was renamed and reorganized from the former College of Health and Human Services. Sixty percent of Mason’s College of Public Health student body are from historically underrepresented groups and 38 percent of undergraduates are first generation. Degree programs are focused on global and community health, health administration and policy, nursing, nutrition and food studies, and social work.

Since its formation, the college has drawn support from notable policymakers, nonprofit leaders, and academics in the public health space.

“In many ways, Mason’s College of Public Health represents ASPPH’s [Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health] vision for the future of public health education — one focused on [DEI] and social justice,” says Laura Magaña, PhD, president and CEO of ASPPH. “Mason’s longstanding commitment to inclusive excellence fosters an environment where diverse perspectives are welcome and nurtured to thrive. The interprofessional nature of the college further strengthens collaboration and inspires new approaches to inquiry.”

Georgetown University, School of Health

In July, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., opened its School of Health, an interdisciplinary program once part of the former School of Nursing & Health Sciences, from which Georgetown’s new School of Nursing was also launched. The School of Health will largely focus on policy and public health concerns with an emphasis on addressing historical inequities and disparities in underrepresented communities.

“The factors that shape the health of individuals and populations are both complex and intersectional,” says Christopher King, PhD, dean of the School of Health. “It will take unconventional practices and policies to undo a history of harms and truly foster a society where all people can achieve their full health potential. This commitment is especially critical in this moment of intense social change. I am excited about unifying our collective strengths under this new umbrella and getting mobilized for meaningful and sustainable impact.”

The school offers bachelor’s degrees in global health, health care management and policy, and human science as well as master’s degrees in health systems administration and global health. As part of their program, students have access to hands-on, culturally competent research work. For example, two undergraduate public health students have been researching reproductive and sexual health in Ghana throughout the fall 2022 semester.

University of La Verne, College of Health and Community Well-Being

The University of La Verne (ULV), a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) in Los Angeles County, Calif., opened the College of Health and Community Well-Being in July, with a holistic vision that includes the use of data and the study of the effects that inequities, social determinants, and cultural agility have on community and individual health. By placing a significant emphasis on DEI, the college hopes to train, recruit, and support a culturally competent and diverse student population and future workforce that will be knowledgeable and representative of the communities they work in. 

“As a proud [HSI], we understand not only the changing dynamics of health care but the need for increasingly diverse faculty and graduates who mirror the population of the greater Southern California region,” says Devorah Lieberman, ULV president.

Undergraduate degrees are offered in health administration, nursing, kinesiology, and psychology, and graduate programs include a doctoral degree in clinical psychology as well as master’s degrees in athletic training, child life, marriage and family therapy, and physician assistant practice. The college also partners with community providers and nonprofit organizations to give students access to hands-on learning experiences, research opportunities, clinical training, and internships.

Bryant University, School of Health and Behavioral Sciences

The School of Health and Behavioral Sciences at Bryant University in Rhode Island welcomed its first classes in June. The school implements an interdisciplinary approach to health care education by incorporating data analytics and business with health, cognitive, and behavioral sciences. The primary goal is to ensure students are prepared to meet the demands of the data-heavy health and STEM fields.

As part of its mission, the school is also committed to the idea of social responsibility by promoting DEI among faculty and students and engaging in research and education that addresses historical inequities and environmental protection.

“Health care is a data-intensive industry,” says Kirsten Hokeness, PhD, director of the School of Health and Behavioral Sciences. “Specialists who can transform data into meaningful insights for numerous and diverse stakeholders are urgently needed and
in high demand.”

Along with existing undergraduate programs in the health care field, such as biology, health sciences, and psychology, the school offers new degrees in health care analytics and exercise and movement science. The school also houses the university’s physician assistant studies graduate program.

Webster University, College of Science and Health

Webster University in St. Louis launched the College of Science in Health in June to address the critical shortage of health industry workers in the region. The university aims to enroll approximately 1,750 students, or about one-third of its student population, in the health sciences field by 2027.

Undergraduate programs include biology, chemistry, exercise science, nursing, and psychology. Master’s degree programs include biomedical sciences, counseling, environmental management, gerontology, human services, and science management and leadership. The college also offers a doctoral degree in nurse anesthesia practice.

Through a $1 million grant from the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, the college is working to improve mental health services for patients from underserved and immigrant communities. The funding is being used to train students in culturally responsive counseling through the Webster University Institute of Clinical Scholarship.

“We have to make sure we have counselors serving these communities using counseling approaches that are culturally appropriate,” says Muthoni Musangali, PhD, the Webster University counseling professor overseeing the grant. “We will bridge the divide between people and services and build those important connections to help address the underlying psychological issues before they manifest into something much more serious.”

Erik Cliburn is a senior staff writer for INSIGHT Into Diversity.

This article was published in our December 2022 issue.