Minority Doctor-training Programs To Get Federal Funding Under Proposed Bill - Higher Education


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Minority Doctor-training Programs To Get Federal Funding Under Proposed Bill

by Jamal Watson

The U.S. House of
Representatives recently voted to increase the funding for two federally funded
programs aimed at training minority health professionals throughout the nation.

The legislation, which has been
spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., would increase the funding for
both the Centers of Excellence and Health Career Opportunity Program to $57
million — more than $28 million each in the 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services
and Education Appropriations bill. The legislation still has to go before the
U.S. Senate for approval.

If enacted into law, the
additional funds will prevent individual Centers of Excellence programs at
medical colleges and universities, including the Hispanic Center of Excellence
at Einstein College of Medicine in New York, from closing its doors.

Last year, the Office of
Management and Budget, a federal department that assists President Bush in
overseeing the preparation of the federal budget, told the staff at the Center
of Excellence at Einstein that they
would not receive the three years of funding that they had been promised
because the services they offered were considered “ineffective.”

The
Center was not the only program to suffer such drastic cuts, as Congress has
sliced funding for the Centers of Excellence program over the past two fiscal
years. That move effectively eliminated almost all federal money available to
the majority of academic institutions that have similar programs. In 2005,
Congress approved $33.6 million in grants to the 34 centers. Last year, only
four of those centers received federal funding, amounting to $11.8 million

Crowley has consistently urged the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services and the Health Resources and Services
Administration to provide the means to continue these Title VII programs. In April, Crowley and U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin,
D-Ill., were successful in lobbying HRSA to extend its May 31st deadline for
these individual programs at colleges and universities to apply for grant
funding through Sept. 20, 2007.

“The
House of Representatives took an important step to address the alarming
shortage of doctors and other medical professionals working in our poorest
communities by investing $57 million in the Centers of Excellence and the
Health Career Opportunity Program,” Crowley says. “Together, these initiatives train minorities to serve as health
professionals in our most underserved neighborhoods.”

According
to the American Medical Association, Blacks and Hispanics make up only 3.2
percent of doctors in the United States. 

“With this boost in funding, these essential programs can continue their
critical work in addressing the disparities in minority health care while
encouraging more Latinos, African-Americans and Native Americans to enter the
medical field,” Crowley says.

“We
are really excited,” says Dr. Maria Soto-Greene, director of the
Hispanic Center of Excellence and vice dean at the University
of Medicine and Dentistry of New
Jersey. She remains cautious, however, because the U.S. Senate has not acted on
the legislation.

The
Hispanic Center of Excellence at UMDNJ has been in existence since 1991 and
lost all of its funding. It has been forced to collaborate with four other
nearby colleges to apply for a grant to stay afloat.

The 2005 incoming class of students at UMDNJ included
170 Black and Hispanic students, the largest in recent memory. The institution
earned the top spot on Diverse’s Top 100 list for medical degrees.

– Jamal Watson

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