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Connective Issues: A UMass Chan diversity and inclusion blog

Pipeline programs essential to results for diversity, equity and inclusion efforts

Tuesday, December 05, 2023
By:  Janjay Innis
The High School Health Careers program is one of several pipeline programs at UMass Chan.
The High School Health Careers program is one of many pipeline programs at UMass Chan.

Designed to recruit a diverse group of students and enhance readiness for various career paths, pipeline programs are among the best initiatives educational institutions committed to diversity, equity and inclusion can invest in. UMass Chan has been on the forefront of this community investment strategy for more than 40 years. 

“In the early days, through the Worcester Pipeline Collaborative initiative, we provided professional development for teachers and staff, because that certainly benefited the students in the Worcester Public Schools,” said Robert E. Layne, MEd, assistant dean for outreach programs and instructor in radiology. “We were major players in the positive accreditation visits by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges teams at several North Quadrant schools. We attended many school board and City Council meetings advocating for construction of the new Worcester Technical High School and North High School. The Worcester Pipeline Collaborative served as the prototype for the city and beyond on how successful higher education institutions and community partnerships operate.” 

Today, there are nine pipeline programs at UMass Chan that serve more than 600 students annually. In addition to the work with the Worcester Public Schools, programs such as the Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program and the Summer Learning Opportunity give undergraduate and graduate students who have chosen to practice medicine or do research a chance to fine-tune those skills for the next step on their journey. 

More than a long-term recruitment and retention plan for medical schools, pathway programs give students from groups underrepresented in science and medicine a sense of pride in their accomplishments given the obstacles, both personal and systemic, they have had to overcome to remain on paths to success. 

The 2021 report from the American Medical Association, Promising Practices Among Pathway Programs to Increase Diversity In Medicine, highlights the systemic issue at play from a historical perspective.  

In the early 1960s, cross-sectional efforts began to support increased diversification of the medical workforce through pipeline programs in response to a projected nationwide shortage of physicians,” according to the report. The shortage of physicians who are underrepresented in medicine was a consequence of structural factors that contributed to the marginalization of Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and Indigenous people, including exclusion from participation in medical education and careers in medicine. 

A commitment to pipeline programs thus is a commitment to the long-term work of anti-racism. In addition, it has an unprecedented mark on public health in that communities who have had trust issues with the medical system will feel more comfortable going to the doctor and taking preventative measures to avoid long term health disparities due to numerous social determinants of health. 

UMass Chan’s success in this venture has been made possible through an incredible model of long-term relationship building with the local community partnerships. It did not just happen overnight. It began by slowly building trust and modeling that we are here to assist the community as an institution that is here to serve by providing education, research and patient care,” Layne added. It is a testament to the power that commitment and consistency play in making a difference