New U-M initiative aims to increase healthcare leadership diversity, health equity

The School of Public Health has launched the Health Equity Leadership Pipeline Collaborative, a program designed to increase the impact of healthcare leadership on addressing health equity issues

An outgrowth of the University of Michigan’s Summer Enrichment Program, The Collaborative, as it’s called, will focus on three key areas: leadership diversity enhancement, healthcare capacity building and health education programs.

For each of the past 30 years, the Summer Enrichment Program has brought dozens of undergraduate students from across the country to the Ann Arbor campus for an internship program that aims to help eliminate racial, ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities in the healthcare industry.

“Our goal for The Collaborative is to work with executives, scholars, practitioners and students to create a business-driven and public health focus on health equity and pipeline program research,” says Christopher Clarke, program director of The Collaborative and the Summer Enrichment Program.

“As the program director of this new initiative, I hope to bring energy, passion and innovation as I work toward achieving health equity through The Collaborative.”

Clarke’s colleague and faculty director of the Summer Enrichment Program and The Collaborative, Ebbin Dotson, says The Collaborative is an important initiative that firmly states U-M’s academic commitment to excellence and diversity, equity and inclusion.

“We want today’s research to be tomorrow’s change and we’re trying to bring in help from so many different specialties to help solve these problems,” says Dotson, who also is an assistant professor of health management and policy at the School of Public Health. “I participated in the Summer Enrichment Program as an undergraduate student at U-M way back when and, through this program, we’ve been able to change the face of health care leadership. We want to continue that work through The Collaborative.”

The Collaborative has designed a competency analysis to evaluate the impact of diverse leaders in executive positions within healthcare organizations. The research involves a review and analysis of professional career paths as they relate to the knowledge, skills and attitudes, with the hopes of developing better processes related to advancement in executive leadership roles within organizations.

Clarke said there are two specific projects aimed at healthcare capacity building. The Authentic Leadership Project and the Paradoxical Progress of Women of Color Leaders Project will each tackle diversity gaps that exist within leadership, board positions and within business management.

“The U-M Summer Enrichment Program’s alumni base of 600-plus people gave us the strong foundation for launching this initiative. We believe it’s the premier health equity pipeline program that should be disseminated as a best practice,” Clarke says.

In order to create opportunities for those interested in healthcare careers, the health education programs area will tap into existing undergraduate and K-12 pipelines at the university including the Summer Enrichment Program and Wolverine Pathways, which is a is a free, year-round program that partners with the families and schools in Detroit, Southfield and Ypsilanti to provide learning experiences that will help students succeed in school, college and future careers. The Collaborative will use expertise to help others launch similar programs across the country.

The Collaborative partners with nearly a dozen local and national healthcare organizations including the National Association of Health Services Executives and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which works to build a national culture of health.

“This is only the beginning,” Clarke says. “Dr. Dotson and I have lots of work to do, but we are very excited for the future of healthcare leadership under The Collaborative.”

By Jeremy Allen
Public Affairs

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