Ferris Joins Initiative to Create Pathways to Health Care Careers for Students of Color

Ferris State University
PHOTO CAPTION: Leaders of seven local colleges and universities gather at a news conference for the announcement by Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, GRAAHI, of a $400,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The "Pathways to Careers in Health Care," will study ways to reduce barriers to students of color from gaining employment in health care. Pictured from left are: Vanessa Greene, of Hope College; Kevin Quinn, of Aquinas College; Tom Haas, of Grand Valley State University; Khan Nedd, of GRAAHI; Cheryl Brandsen, of Calvin College; Shannon Wilson, of GRAAHI; Richard Pappas, of Davenport University; David Eisler, of Ferris State University; Laurie Chesley, of Grand Rapids Community College and Paul Doyle, of GRAAHI.

GRAND RAPIDS – Ferris State University is among seven area colleges and universities supporting an initiative to increase the number of students of color pursuing healthcare education and later succeeding in their post-college careers. The Grand Rapids African American Health Institute (GRAAHI) has announced an initiative to create “Pathways to Careers in Healthcare” through a $400,000 planning grant awarded by the Battle Creek-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Shannon Wilson, executive director of GRAAHI, noted, “This is by far the most influential grant we have received. It has the potential to change how medical care is delivered in Grand Rapids, and by whom. We can reduce disparities in health care when our health care workforce mirrors the diversity of our community.”

Ferris President David Eisler, who attended the Thursday, June 28 announcement hosted at the Kent ISD Conference Center, praised the collaborative project and its goals.

“Ferris State University strongly supports the work of GRAAHI and is pleased to be a part of this W.K. Kellogg Foundation-funded project,” he said. “These efforts mirror our commitment to building the opportunities a diverse workforce presents and our many efforts in educating the health care professionals of tomorrow.”

GRAAHIJoining Ferris, in support of the “Pathways to Careers in Healthcare” grant, are Aquinas College, Calvin College, Davenport University, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University and Hope College. The institutions will participate in the study to develop “college-specific” plans of action to engage students of color and reduce barriers to careers in healthcare professions.

Wilson cited an Institute of Medicine and the Sullivan Commission study, in 2004, that identified a “lack of minorities in the health workforce as contributing to unequal access and quality of care.”

Paul Doyle, a Ferris alumnus and GRAAHI board chair, spoke of intentionality and inclusiveness referencing the grant and the work ahead to open pathways to enhance diversity in the health professions.

“A key objective within this important initiative is to establish an intentional and inclusive framework that fosters equity within the academic context of the participating institutions,” he said. “We expect to gain a coordinated and sustainable pipeline approach to increase students of color entry into the health professions in West Michigan.”

Dr. Khan Nedd, GRAAHI clinical director, spoke of the project’s three overarching goals: Improving diversity in health care professions to mirror diversity in the community, by 2040; establish a cadre of West Michigan African American and Latinix health care leaders, and generate early exposure to advance health care practice careers throughout K-12.

For more information about the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, visit: www.graahi.org.

For more information about the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, visit: www.wkkf.org.