Community-Based Partners of National Physician Diversity Project Building Coalitions to Promote More Diverse Physician Workforce

Boston, MA, February 6, 2004. Applauding the recommendations contained in the just- released report from the Institute of Medicine, “In the Nation’s Compelling Interest: Ensuring Diversity in the Health Care Workforce,” Community Catalyst today noted that the IOM’s recommendations correctly recognize the critical role broad coalitions that include community members can play in fostering health care workforce diversity.

Boston-based Community Catalyst coordinates the Physician Diversity Project (PDP), a national effort linked to the IOM initiative, to promote the growth of community-based efforts to encourage a more diverse medical workforce. Pilot community-inclusive efforts have already been established by two Community Catalyst partners, Health Care For All of Massachusetts, and Citizen Action of New York.

Today Community Catalyst further underscored the IOM’s call for creation of such efforts to shape a more diverse medical workforce for the U.S.

“Our work has shown that the definition of what makes a good doctor – and by extension, what constitutes a good medical education – has been determined solely by the medical profession and has not changed in almost one hundred years. The IOM report suggests that those standards must be updated for all health professions if the workforce is going to be prepared to meet the needs of a vastly more diverse society,” said Community Catalyst’s Phillip Gonzalez.

Gonzalez noted that the Project has already successfully utilized many of the approaches and policy changes proposed by the IOM. “The Project’s ability to build coalitions of interested parties from both inside and outside the health professions, and use those coalitions to press for policy changes, has already borne fruit.”

“In Massachusetts, the Project has already worked with the Attorney General’s Office to change the state Hospital Community Benefits Guidelines to include physician diversity goals and reporting,” stated Dan Delaney, of Health Care For All and coordinator of the Boston site. “The Project has also completed a survey examining the numbers of minority residents at teaching hospitals – opening up for the first time the “black box” of physician training,” Delaney continued.

“In New York, the Community Partnership to Increase Diversity in the Health Professions identified ‘best practices’ on how medical schools can partner with community organizations to increase the number of historically under-represented medical students and enable physicians to provide culturally-competent care,” said Ruth Browne, co-chair of the Community Partnership. “Increasing diversity in the health professions requires a diversity of voices. The Community Partnership has engaged a wide variety of traditionally unheard voices in this issue. We have brought together educators, physicians, community leaders, allied and public health professionals, nurses, parents and students from a wide-variety of organizations who are working together toward the same goal,” said Browne.

Many of the IOM’s conclusions echo the recommendations in “The Color of Medicine,” a Community Catalyst publication issued in 2002 that initiated the Physician Diversity Project, both of which have been funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

Key recommendations of that earlier report included giving greater weight in the medical school admissions process to the human qualities that make a good physician, development of partnerships between communities and academic institutions, and increasing accountability for diversity of the health workforce, and direct community involvement in admissions, recruitment and training efforts.

“The IOM report lends credibility to this issue which means that change efforts can accelerate,” Gonzalez said. “It has certainly strengthened our commitment, and that of the Project coalitions, to press this issue in every venue at every opportunity. And if the opportunities don’t present themselves, we will create them.”

Community Catalyst ( is a national healthcare advocacy organization dedicated to building consumer and community participation in the decisions that shape our health system. Working in partnership with state, local, and grassroots consumer groups in over 30 states, Community Catalyst has helped preserve over $16 billion in community health assets as hospitals and health plans around the country have become forprofit corporations. It works on a range of healthcare access issues, including health institution accountability, the fight for fair prescription drug prices, and today’s struggle to preserve Medicaid services and other health care access programs.

The Physician Diversity Project is a national initiative to advance new strategies for increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of the physician workforce in the United States. A Community Catalyst initiative, the Project’s goal is to engage communities in the discussion about what makes a good doctor in a diverse society and affect broad reform of policies and practices at medical schools and teaching hospitals.

Health Care For All ( was founded in 1985 on the principle that everyone should have access to health care – regardless of social or economic status, insurance status, race or ethnicity, disability, gender, age, or citizenship status. Since its establishment, Health Care For All has become a
major force in the Massachusetts health care community developing organizing approaches and program models emulated by local groups and groups throughout the United States. Since 1988, Health Care For All has played a critical role in each of the state’s publicly funded health care expansions to disadvantaged groups.

Citizen Action of New York ( is a membership organization that works in communities throughout the state — and nation as part of USAction — to build better futures for families. For 20 years, we’ve been involving people in successful efforts to improve health care, provide quality education and after-school programs, get good pay for jobs, secure affordable public transit and lessen the influence of big money in politics through clean elections reform.