Partnering with National Medical Fellowships to Create a 21st Century Health Workforce

August 22, 2017

Chiemeka Onyima and Justin Okons, medical students at Drexel University College of Medicine and United Health Foundation/National Medical Fellowship Diverse Medical Scholars scholarship recipients, facilitate a health workshop for seniors in Northern Philadelphia.

For many medical students, a challenging course load and long hours are enough to keep them busy. Yet some students are finding time to complete a 200 hour community service learning project with United Health Foundation/National Medical Fellowship Diverse Medical Scholars Program. For these students, not only is it a way to give back to their communities, but it's a way to help fund their education.

United Health Foundation and National Medical Fellowships (NMF) partner to provide scholarships through the Diverse Scholars Initiative that support 30 students who show leadership at an early stage of their careers and express a commitment to providing primary care to those living in medically underserved communities. According to America's Health Rankings, there are approximately 127 primary care physicians available for every 100,000 people across the country, and nine states have fewer than 100 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents.

As part of the Diverse Medical Scholars Program, students undertake community health projects regardless of their year in medical school, often extending the length of the project as they receive funding in subsequent years. Students are able to receive mentoring and leverage a strong network of NMF alumni to aide in their career development.

Chiemeka Onyima and Justin Okons, medical students at Drexel University College of Medicine, are intent on addressing medication adherence and health literacy in the aging population. Over the past three years, in partnership with the Unitarian Universalist House Outreach Program, they created four interactive community health workshops for seniors in Northern Philadelphia.  The workshops, led by Chiemeka and Justin, include individualized health assessments, discussions about prescription medication side effects, demonstrations on how to take certain medications, and a Q & A.

The workshops were a great success and Chiemeka and Justin are in demand, receiving requests to host more events. Through the workshops, they were able to address health information gaps and increase participants' knowledge regarding medication adherence.

"Working on this project through the National Medical Fellowships and United Health Foundation has been amazing," says Onyima. "I feel so accomplished in the work I've done in the community and its impact on individuals' lives. Armed with this experience, I hope to translate what I've learned to my future practice as a physician."

By investing in the 21st century health workforce, United Health Foundation is helping ensure our nation's health care system is the most effective and innovative system in the world, because a diverse health workforce and the unique perspective it brings contributes to enhanced communication, health care access, patient satisfaction, decreased health disparities and improved problem-solving for complex issues.