The state of Nevada faces an extreme shortage of physicians. According to America's Health Rankings, the state ranks 47th of the 50 U.S. states in the number of doctors per 100,000 people within nearly every medical specialty. This physician shortage means many Nevadans find it increasingly difficult to effectively access high-quality, affordable and timely health care. Local organizations, educators, legislators, business leaders and other members of the Las Vegas community have responded by supporting the creation of a medical school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).
UnitedHealth Group, through UnitedHealthcare and Southwest Medical, are active and vital participants in the health care community in Nevada, serving nearly 1 million Nevadans enrolled in individual, employer-sponsored, Medicare and Medicaid health plans with a network of 39 hospitals and more than 7,600 physicians and other care providers throughout the state. This deep relationship makes United Health Foundation a natural partner to support UNLV Medical School's vision to create a world-class center of excellence and innovation for medical education, patient care and research that prepares Nevada's physicians with the most advanced knowledge, treatments and technologies while serving the health care needs of a diverse urban community.
UNLV School of Medicine Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson.
In 2016, United Health Foundation awarded a $3 million grant to the school that will be used over five years to put in place medical education and course curriculum, including population health and hospitality in health care. These programs will support the Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (LIC) model, where the school's third-year medical students spend an entire 12 months in an outpatient clinic, gaining hands-on experience taking care of patients under faculty and resident supervision. This new learning model emphasizes continuity of care and communication between medical students and the people they help treat, providing students a broader and more empathetic view of healing and a deeper understanding of the doctor-patient relationship.
The grant also supports the building of three multispecialty community clinics that will offer a full complement of primary care and basic specialty-care services. These facilities will serve as the clinical training sites for the LIC model.
As UNLV School of Medicine Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson said, "This partnership (with United Health Foundation) aligns with the UNLV School of Medicine's mission to improve access to care for Medicaid patients while advancing clinical, education and research solutions in southern Nevada. It is a great grant and gets us off to a wonderful start in building our clinical practice."
Local health clinics and other care providers and facilities in low-income and minority communities are faced with two major challenges in bringing better care to the people they serve. One challenge is the nationwide shortage of primary care physicians. According to America's Health Rankings, only 127 primary care physicians are available for every 100,000 people across the country, and nine states have fewer than 100 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents.
The second challenge is finding dedicated health professionals from diverse multicultural backgrounds to increase culturally competent health care delivery, close the health disparities gap and improve long- term health outcomes in underserved communities. Research shows that patients are more open to receiving care and guidance from practitioners of their own race or ethnicity. These findings indicate that greater diversity among health professionals can improve health and health care delivery in the nation's communities.
United Health Foundation's Diverse Scholars Initiative is investing in the 21st century health workforce by providing multi-year financial support, internship and mentor programs, and an annual scholar forum in Washington, D.C.
Since the Diverse Scholars Initiative was launched in 2007, United Health Foundation has provided more than $16 million in assistance and funded nearly 2,069 scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students.
In addition to demonstrating financial need, scholars must be pursuing a degree that will lead to a career as a primary care health professional and must indicate a commitment to working in underserved communities and community health centers.
Alexa Mieses clearly fits this profile. A native New Yorker, Alexa grew up in Astoria, Queens. "Growing up in a diverse place like Astoria and being biracial myself has really influenced the way I relate to other people," she said.
After graduating from the Bronx High School of Science, Alexa attended The City University of New York: City College, graduating in 2011 with a degree in biology. After a full-time research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health, in 2012 she began her medical studies at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Alexa was awarded a scholarship to support her studies through a partnership between United Health Foundation and the National Hispanic Health Foundation.
Alexa is especially excited to serve members of the Latino community. "The Latino community is very underrepresented in medicine," she said. "In health care, when patients can better relate to their providers, it makes for a better, more therapeutic alliance. With more Latino providers, we can provide more compassionate, culturally competent care to our Latino patients."
Alexa says the support she's received through the United Health Foundation Diverse Scholars Initiative has been invaluable in helping her pursue her goals. "The financial support is amazing and is especially significant for someone like me going into primary care," she said. "In addition, I've been able to meet and exchange ideas with colleagues who have similar interests. There's also a mentoring component that has allowed me to meet Latino thought leaders involved in policy and the legislative process."
Alexa says this kind of ongoing, dedicated support has helped her achieve her dream of becoming a physician preparing for a future practicing family medicine. "I've been very lucky to have wonderful mentors along the way, and I'm excited to pay it forward to help bring greater diversity into the world of health care."
See how United Health Foundation is nurturing the 21st century health workforce through the Diverse Scholars Initiative.
Meet Alexa Mieses, recipient of a scholarship through the Diverse Scholars Initiative..