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Paul Davis

Urban Health Opportunities Program (UHOP)

How a UNO Biology Professor is Creating Diversity in Omaha鈥檚 Physician Population

By Jackie Ostrowicki

February 2021

Medicine is a field that serves an extremely broad population, making diversity in health care critical. Health disparities affect segments of the population differently, and attitudes toward health care and treatment vary among different groups.

Diversity allows physicians to better understand patients within a larger context鈥攕uch as their upbringing or socioeconomic realities. When a patient can鈥檛 find providers that resemble them, their culture, or other facets of their life, it can delay or prevent them from seeking timely care.

Physician Diversity Requires Med School Diversity

Although the medical profession has made great strides in welcoming a broader spectrum of doctors, there is work to be done. Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately .鈥疧ver 56 percent of active physicians are white. About 17 percent are Asian. Less than six percent are Hispanic, and five percent are black.

This extends to students . Not only are students from lower socioeconomic groups underrepresented; they are more likely to leave medical school within the first two years. To create a more diverse physician population, it鈥檚 important to create a more diverse and better-prepared medical student population.

When providers in underserved areas understand their patients, it makes patients feel connected. Patients who trust their doctor seek healthcare when they need it鈥攚hich lowers costs for them and for the larger community.
When patients trust their doctor, they seek healthcare when they need it鈥攚hich lowers costs for them and for the larger community.

This is where UNO鈥檚 steps in. Davis, a professor with a Ph.D. in molecular biology and expertise in infectious disease, is passionate about working with undergraduate students. He moved to Omaha in 2010 to work at UNO, where he could not only teach and continue his research鈥攂ut also foster a close connection to UNMC and its resources. He runs one of the largest undergraduate labs at UNO, with 20 students working in his lab.

Supporting First-Generation Students

Davis鈥檚 skills and interests put him in the perfect position to help UNO students become better prepared for health careers. at UNO are first-generation students; their parents did not attend college. This means they need unique mentorship and support to prepare them for medical school, and Davis was determined to create a program to help them. He now serves as director of the Urban Health Opportunities Program (UHOP), a pipeline program he helped create that puts UNO undergrads from underrepresented groups on the road to medical school.

Thanks to support from the Urban Health Opportunities Program, UNO has significantly increased their acceptance rate of students getting into medical school.

鈥淭here鈥檚 a great deal of support offered to UHOP students,鈥 said Davis. 鈥淔or some, their parents haven鈥檛 gone to college鈥攊magine the complexities helping them prepare for medical school. We offer not only financial support but help in preparing them for what鈥檚 ahead.鈥 The program offers undergraduate tuition assistance, MCAT preparation, mentoring by UNMC medical students, help with medical school applications鈥攁nd guaranteed admission to UNMC's M.D. program upon successful program completion.

Giving Back to the Community

Started in 2016, has run two cohorts through a full four-year program; 83% of UHOP participants have gone on to medical school. The for medical school acceptance is 42%. 鈥淯HOP is still young,鈥 said Davis. 鈥淭he first measure of success is how many of these students are accepted into medical school. The second is graduating from their program, and the third is how many of these new physicians decide to practice in underserved areas in 最新麻豆视频.鈥

Which brings the conversation full circle鈥攖o the need for diversity in the physician population. 鈥淥maha has many underserved communities, and it鈥檚 important to graduate health care providers who are from those communities,鈥 said Davis. 鈥淭hey need an undergraduate experience that helps bridge the gap鈥攏ot just to get into medical school, but to excel in grad school and in life.鈥

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