04-16-2023 Education - Flipbook - Page 9
The Baltimore Sun | Sunday, April 16, 2023
Closing gaps in health care requires more than academics
How Maryland colleges are graduating more diverse health care professionals
and making an immediate impact on care
By Katie Turner, Contributing Writer
he Covid-19 pandemic revealed painful gaps in the health care system –
among them – under-representation of
minorities in health care professions as
well as limited access to care for urgent
and growing needs in rural communities.
Educational institutions are uniquely positioned to respond to this crisis by adapting education and training for health care professionals
to meet emerging needs. Three of Maryland’s
colleges are taking unique approaches to ensuring
that high-quality health care professionals continue to enter the field.
Making an Immediate Impact for Local Patients:
For her capstone project with Salisbury
University’s (SU) Doctor of Nursing Practice
(DNP) program, Natalie Parks is trying to solve
a persistent problem in cardiac and pulmonary
rehabilitation: getting patients to consistently take
their medications. She developed a simple survey
to ask patients about medication adherence. The
responses point the health care provider to the
root cause of the issue.
“Before, patients would simply say ‘no, I didn’t
take my meds’,” explains Parks on the impetus for
her project. “Now, they are giving a reason, like ‘I
forgot’, which allows the provider to offer tips and
tools on how to remember.”
Annette Barnes, assistant professor of nursing
and graduate program director, explains that the
ability to put research into practice is one of the
most valuable aspects of the university’s graduate
nursing programs, which offer concentrations in
health care leadership and nurse educator.
“Students apply topics they are learning to
their current roles to make an immediate difference,” says Barnes. Most students are working
locally in Maryland, and projects are focused
on evidence-based improvements. “It currently
takes about 15 years to put research into practice
in health care, our students are making changes
much more quickly.”
A doctoral student focused on health care
for the LGBTQ population by examining how
caregivers' attitudes and practices, such as asking
for pronouns, can impact overall care. Another
student implemented ways to prevent pressure
wounds in patients undergoing respiratory therapy for Covid. Many of the findings from these
projects led to practice changes that are still in
Parks, who intends to continue to practice
medicine on the Eastern Shore, says “In a time
when we are still recovering from the pandemic
and building back the morale of our health care
workers, Salisbury University is graduating high
quality nurses that are ready to enter the workforce, and there is such a need.”
Proactive Support Across the Spectrum:
Anne Arundel Community College
Scott Olden, assistant dean for nursing at
Anne Arundel Community College, is helping
to ensure more Registered Nurses (RNs) enter
the workforce through an innovative approach to
“Before Covid, we were primarily focused on
academics. Now, we are looking more closely at
social determinants and barriers, and concentrating on interventions for factors that may inhibit
success,” Olden explains.
The practice, known as proactive advising,
starts with uncovering individual student challenges, like transportation, food, clothing, mental
Nursing students at AACC get hands-on learning.
Building the Next Generation of Health care
Providers: University of Maryland Eastern Shore
The University of Maryland, Eastern Shore
(UMES) has more health profession degree programs than any other historically Black college
and university (HBCU).
Increasing the number of health care providers from minority and traditionally underrepresented backgrounds is critical to sustaining a
robust health care system that meets the needs of
the entire population.
“The demographics of our nation are changing,” says Dr. T. Sean Vasaitis, interim dean of
the school of pharmacy and health professions
at UMES. “It is important to have health care
practitioners that reflect those demographics and
relate to the backgrounds and experiences of their
Dr. Grace Namwamba, chair of the department of human ecology, talks about the impact
this has in educating future registered dietitians.
“Nutrition is the foundation of good health
and community vitality. Health improves with
education about nutrition as well as access to
healthy food.” Because habits and traditions
around food are deeply rooted in culture, diversity among registered dietitians is key. Yet, only
about 3% of dietitians nationwide come from
“We seek to understand the challenges that
students face coming from different backgrounds,
and offer top-notch support for academic, social,
behavioral, health, and other factors that impact
their ability to succeed,” says Vasaitis.
Health care is changing, both in the expectations of patients and in the modes of delivery for
providers. UMES is adapting to these changes,
including the development of new training using
“Students need to relate to patients through
different modes and media,” says Vasaitis, adding
that the pandemic really accelerated the changes
in communication methods used for health care.
“Simulations are a critical part of health care
education, and virtual reality, which we are working to develop, allows students to practice in an
immersive environment where it is safe to make
The new school of pharmacy and health
professions building at UMES, which opened this
spring, will be home for this cutting-edge technology for learning and research.
Beyond the students on campus, UMES
invests significant effort in community outreach
and partnerships to develop a pipeline for future
students, especially from medically underserved
and low-income populations.
Through a federally funded program, the
university brings high school students to the
campus during the summer to learn about technologies and practices used in drug discovery.
Another program, through a partnership with
the University of Maryland School of Medicine,
invites students from Baltimore City high schools
students nine different areas of specialization,
including literacy strategies, technology strategies, special education, leadership and English
for those who speak other languages in their
“These programs are designed to help
teachers pursue advancements in their careers,”
Czeczulin says. She noted the initial teaching
degree provides teachers with a broad-based
area of focus, while the certifications through
the graduate programs in education provide
the teachers with “deeper knowledge” in areas
of special focus.
“Teachers come in and want to get certified. It increases their knowledge and there are
certain pay increases that are related to these
certifications,” Czeczulin says. “Our Goucher
students are lifelong learners. They are not set
in their ways. They want to adjust and adapt
and provide the best education experience they
Just as the teachers continue with their
own learning experiences, Goucher College
continues to expand its offerings. The Masters
of Education program recently launched two
specializations in teaching English to speakers
of other languages. One was in the Masters of
Arts in teaching curriculum and the other was
in the Masters of Education program.
In addition to the program’s current offer-
health, emotional needs, and even funding for
This is especially impactful for students of
color and students for whom English is a second
“These students have a tendency to fall
through the cracks. They may not seek help
because they do not trust they will find it, and
this program is seeking to change that paradigm.”
Olden says that the program helps ensure that
the college is doing everything possible to support
students and keep them on track in their nursing
program or find alternative programs where they
can be successful.
“We have an exit strategy that helps students
identify other health care programs that might be
a better fit.” Students who do not stay in nursing
may transition to other career paths, closing gaps
across the spectrum of care.
Salisbury DNP student Natalie Parks assists in surgery.
to come to UMES for a health professions “bootcamp”.
Both of these programs allow students to
learn about health education pathways that they
may not have otherwise considered.
“We want students to understand what it
means to be in a health professions program, and
what it is like to be in the career,” says Vasaitis.
“For us, it is critical to develop a future pipeline
of students, especially from under-represented
backgrounds, if we want to work towards closing
the gaps in health care for minority and medically
“We want to produce health care professionals
who will be agents of change, who can revolutionize the field of health care.”
Workforce needs, from page 6
The success of the alliance in health care is
expected to lead to cross college collaborations
in other disciplines, including drone operation
and construction management.
Goucher College in Towson began as a
teaching college, and school leaders continue
to embrace that mission with its curriculum.
Education professionals can earn a number of
advanced degrees and certificates to advance
their careers. Annalisa Czeczulin, director of
Masters of Arts in teaching at Goucher College,
says the graduate programs in education offer
multiple certifications in education that opens
new pathways in the field. The program offers
for AACPS high school
students this Spring?
To learn about
ings, Czeczulin says the college is exploring
other certifications, including a potential
accreditation in library sciences. She says college leaders are talking with their counterparts
in other schools to determine the most pressing
continuing educations needs facing educators.
The world and education are changing at a
rapid pace and Goucher intends to be ready to
meet new challenges.
“If Covid taught us one thing, it’s that we
have to be adaptable and be able to turn on a
dime,” she says. “We really have a lot of lifelong
learners. They don’t’ stop. They keep learning
and improving their skills in education.”
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