Proposal for Extension Funding
for the Pathways Partnership for Minorities
in the Health Professions
©2000 Allener M. Rogers
The Pathways Partnership for Minorities in the Health Professions is a five-year; grant funded initiative sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). MCP Halmemann University (MCPHU) was one of 10 medical and health sciences institutions to originally receive the award in 1996. The goal of the "Health Professions Partnership Initiative" (HPPI) was to increase the number of under-represented minorities who became interested in, and sought degrees in the wide variety of medical and health professions careers. Using an educational pipeline approach, each of the grantees were encouraged to establish collaborations with local school districts, community colleges and departments within their own universities.
The Pathways Partnership is a 6th grade through post-baccalaureate collaboration between MCPHU, the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) and the School District of Philadelphia (SDP). The Interdepartmental Medical Sciences program (IMSP), Schools of Nursing, Health Professions, Medicine and Public Health are internal institutional partners. The division of educational support services at the community college, two middle schools and one high school participate in the collaboration as external partners. Similarly, an advisory council comprised of representatives from all these constituencies provides oversight and direction to the project director.
The instructional components to the Pathways Partnership include: 1) classroom and laboratory-based science programming for middle and high school students, 2) career exposure programming for middle and high school students, including interactions with health professionals and health-focused college students, 3) career and academic advising
for high school and community college-level students, 4) professional development workshops and seminars for middle and high school teachers, and 5) academic advising, tutoring, study skills workshops and preparatory seminars for pre-med students. The project also has an ongoing research component that is focused on formative and summative evaluation objectives.
The total grant level awarded to each of the 10 HPPI projects was $350,000 over the five-year period, and a 2:1 institutional match was required per year. MCPHU's match has been met through a combination of in-kind and actual cost shares. The average fiscal year funding provided by the university is $120,000. Finally, in addition to the project director, three full-time equivalents also serve as project staff. They are an academic counselor, science program coordinator and administrative assistant. The project is also supported by an evaluation consultant and research assistant, as well as by first year pre-med students engaged in community service projects. These students serve as science mentors in the middle and high school science program.
Statement of Need and Rationale
As of February 28, 2001 funding for the Pathways Partnership will come to a close. Because this timeframe falls midway through both the university and public schools schedules, all of the activities described above will be in operation at the point that funding ends. Therefore, a request for extension funding is being sought from RWJF for the period of March 1, 2001 through June 30, 2001, based on the rationale that stopping the educational program four months shy of the close of the school year is not in the best educational interests of the student participants.
The extension request totals $36,000. This funding would support the salaries and efforts of the direct service staff, and would fund operating costs such as materials for their work with students and teachers.
A separate proposal for an extension of matching funds was submitted, and subsequently presented, to the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs at MCPHU on June 13, 2000. The proposal was approved at the funding level requested ($43,000), and will support the salaries of the administrative staff, evaluation consultant and research assistant. These individuals will focus their efforts on completing required end-of-project narrative, financial and evaluation reports.
During the extension period, the project's activities will also be funded in small part by grants from two federally funded initiatives. They are the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP), which funds a portion of the high school to community college transitional work, and the GEAR-UP Program, which funds a portion of the middle school students' and teachers' science-based activities. Approximately $15,000 combined will be available through these sources through June 30, 2001.
Paulo Friere's (1970) theoretical framework regarding the pedagogy of the oppressed is particularly useful here, because it buttresses RWJF's notion that awareness or enhanced consciousness moves students to action, and that personal action moves educated students toward making major life changes. Minority students do not always perceive themselves as capable of achieving professional accomplishments. For that matter, minority students are not always aware of the full range of opportunities available to them. Friere espouses a belief that lack of knowledge and awareness serve to further oppress the poor and powerless, and that as a result the wealthy and privileged continue to dominant.
Jarvis (1995) states that the aim of curriculum frameworks should be to "encourage the growth and expression of humanity of learners" p. 195. Similarly, Vandenberg (1990) describes consciousness as "a swift stream of sentience in which there is always an awareness of something in the world" p. 183. These tenets relate to the mission of the RWJF initiative in that its goal is to radically change the way in which minority students perceive themselves and their future, and to always change the ways in which educators view these populations of students.
Moreover, the HPPI encourages its projects to view minority students from a more humanistic framework, and to serve as the bridge to personal reflection, liberation and achievement for young people aspiring to health professions careers. This task should be accomplished through our attitudes toward minority students, as well as through our curriculum and program offerings. Both Friere (1970) and RWJF would suggest that the educational process not be neutral in the regard of personal and professional development for our students, but rather that we actively engage ourselves in fostering self-reflection on the part of our learners.
One of the initial philosophies of the HPPI was to create a diverse array of career exposure, science-education and college preparatory programming sufficient to fostering environments of success for minority students. Students who participate in the Pathways Partnership spend a considerable portion of their school hours engaged in hands-on, interactive and constructivist science- based activity. The science curriculum is designed and refined by the classroom teacher and project staff, so that it is rooted in academic benchmarks and grade-level course requirements set by the SDP. This program is also closely intertwined with the schools' regular classroom programming. For all these reasons, commencing the project in February rather than June will significantly alter the middle and high school science initiative.
Likewise, the spring semester is typically a time of year when pre-med students are preparing to sit for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), completing medical school interviews, deciding to select one school over the other and preparing for final course examinations. The Pathways Partnership concentrates its support services programming on these areas for approximately 30 students at varying stages of this continuum. This is also the time of year when project staff is engaged in assisting high school students with making the transition to community college or to four-year institutions.
The RWJF initiative wants minority students to make the transition from one pathway to the next, and for that transition to be as risk-free as possible. Extension funding at this critical juncture in the academic year supports the thrust of increasing the number of under-represented minority students who aspire to, and matriculate into, health professions degree programs.
Although the RWJF has never formally polled participating HPPI institutions regarding potential negative ramifications of ending funding just months shy of the completion of the 2000-01 academic year, its representative organization, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), has broached the subject on behalf of the HPPI institutions. Serving as the program oversight entity, the AAMC has long been aware of this broad-based concern, and in February 2000 met with RWJF officials to discuss the possibility of extended funding opportunities.
Despite these actions, neither the RWJF nor AAMC has made a formal statement regarding extended funding opportunities. In March 2000 representatives from the AAMC met with members of the Pathways Partnership's advisory council, during which time the project director was encouraged to submit a formal, written request for extension funding. Because of the enormous uncertainty about whether or not RWJF would approve this request, the director decided to seek internal institutional support prior to approaching RWJF. The rationale behind this strategy is simple, and is anchored in the belief that RWJF is more likely to approve the request if the MCPHU has already agreed to do so.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed (trans. M.B. Ramer). Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Jarvis, P. (1995). Adult and continuing education: Theory and practice. 2nd Ed. Great Britain: Routledge.
Vandenberg, D. (1990). Education as a human right: A theory of curriculum and pedagog . Advances in Contemporary Thought, 6, New York: Teachers College.