Grand Rapids African American Institute: bridging the gap in healthcare professions

Jul 5, 2018

 

Physician takes patient's blood pressure

Marcus Jones, a Black American student at Grand Rapids Community College on the Occupational Therapist track was first exposed to the profession when he began working at a Spectrum Health Hospital downtown Grand Rapids.

Historically Black Americans and Latinx individuals have been significantly underrepresented among the Occupational Therapist profession. 

For Jones, the profession gives him the opportunity to help other using a diversity of skills.  

 “It allows me to be hands on because I seen a patient come from one day not being able to walk being able to one day at a time doing the what they call the daily duties and activities being able to brush their teeth and comb their hair. So once I was seeing that it just became something that I wanted to do.” 

Ensuring students like Jones are able to successfully pursue heath care careers is just what the Grand Rapids African Aerican Health Institute has set out to do thanks to the $400,000 dollars they have been awarded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Shannon Wilson, Executive Director of the organization explains that the grant will focus on reducing racial disparities in health by partnering with 7 local colleges: Aquinas College, Calvin College, Davenport University, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University and Hope College. 

“Its really unprecedented because we have not seen a region come together and collaborate in this way.”

Wilson states that people of color are significantly underrepresented at 15 percent in Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners occupations. 

 “This work is about identifying and naming racism as it exists within our institutions”

In tackling racial disparities in health, Grand Rapids is the first in the country to take on a partnership with institutions of higher education and carve a pathway to careers in healthcare for students of color.  

Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU News