Expanded Pipeline Program Emphasizes Intraprofessional Health Care

A pipeline program intended to increase the number of health care professionals from underrepresented groups will offer studies in all fields available at Columbia University Medical Center: medicine, dentistry, nursing, public health, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and nutrition.

Columbia is one of 13 institutions nationwide to participate in the expanded Summer Health Professions Education Program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Previously limited to medicine and dentistry, the free enrichment program allows first- and second-year college students to spend several weeks at the medical center. The program’s new name reflects its broader focus on intraprofessional education and the belief that patients receive better care when providers work collaboratively and across specialties.

This is the first time all academic programs at CUMC will work together on a so-called pipeline program to encourage participants to consider careers in health care. “I think that was the strength of our application, that we have these seven programs on one campus,” says Hilda Hutcherson, MD, senior associate dean of diversity and multicultural affairs at P&S and PI of the Columbia SHPEP site. (Co-PIs are Dennis Mitchell, DDS, vice provost for faculty diversity and inclusion at Columbia University and senior associate dean for diversity at the College of Dental Medicine, and Vivian Taylor, EdD, associate dean for diversity and cultural affairs at the School of Nursing). “You need to have a team, health professionals working together for efficiency and great medical care. We presented a proposal that showed how the programs would work together.”

About 1,400 college students apply to Columbia’s program every year, though only 80 spots are available. “Being at Columbia, one of the top medical centers in the country, and in New York City is a huge draw,” Dr. Hutcherson says. “We’re looking for students who need assistance, who need encouragement, who need the resources. I think the encouragement we provide is the most important thing we do, because often these students have never been told, ‘Yes, you can do this! And this is the way you can do it.’ Those are the students we’re reaching for.