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Giving back prime motivation for minority students aiming for health careers


WASHINGTON–Minority students pursuing health careers are far more motivated by a desire to serve their community than by potential financial rewards, according to new research released recently by United Health Foundation.

When asked what is the single most important motivation, 46 percent of minority scholars cited having a positive impact on people’s lives as their top reason for pursuing a health career. Only 17 percent cited salary or income.

Money is not a primary motivation for these students; however, it is a primary source of stress and discouragement. Of those polled, 98 percent said financial hurdles are a significant barrier to achieving their education and career goals.

The research, conducted by APCO Insight and funded by United Health Foundation, polled about 500 minority students pursuing health careers. More than 60 percent of respondents said there are not enough minority health professionals. One in four said they had never been treated by a health professional of the same or similar racial or ethnic background as themselves. Nearly 90 percent said they are interested in working to serve a community with the same or similar racial or ethnic background as themselves.

The research was released in conjunction with United Health Foundation’s fourth annual Diverse Scholars Forum, which last month brought 76 scholarship recipients to Washington, D.C., to recognize and celebrate their accomplishments and inspire them to work toward strengthening the nation’s healthcare system.

To help address the financial shortfall these students face, United Health Foundation is awarding more than $1.2 million in scholarships to more than 200 students from diverse, multicultural backgrounds. From 2007 through this year, United Health Foundation will have awarded nearly 1,000 scholarships, totaling more than $5 million, to students throughout the country.

“We know patients do best when they are treated by people who understand their language and culture,” said Kate Rubin, president, United Health Foundation. “United Health Foundation is grateful for the opportunity to help support these outstanding students who are demonstrating impressive purpose and passion and who will help lead the way to better health access and outcomes.”

The Diverse Scholars Initiative is administered through partnerships with a variety of nonprofit and civic organizations; United Health Foundation does not select the recipients. Scholarship winners must demonstrate financial need, pursuit of a degree that will lead to a career in a health field and a commitment to working in underserved communities, including at community health centers. Additional requirements and application deadlines vary by organization.

For more information about the research and the Diverse Scholars Initiative, visit