Our Priorities Care for Underserved Communities

Life expectancy can differ by as much as 20 years in neighborhoods only a few miles from one another. Differences in income, education, age, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, as well as access to quality health care determine these disparate outcomes. Too often, health professions students graduate without the knowledge and skills necessary to help close this gap and specifically may not have the skills to care for patients from different cultural backgrounds. The growing racial and ethnic diversity of America, along with the aging of America’s baby boomers, demands that we better prepare our health professionals to serve this changing population.

Learning to Care for Underserved Patients

We support projects that expand health professionals’ understanding and skills in delivering culturally and linguistically appropriate care and expose students and trainees to caring for patients from diverse backgrounds. We also support initiatives aimed at helping ensure more graduating and practicing health professionals choose to work in health care settings that serve vulnerable people, including those in rural and inner-city communities.

Building New Skills and Expertise

New curricula and training models are preparing healthcare professionals to meet the needs of all patients—regardless of age, race, language, income, education, religion, or sexual orientation—by:

  • Teaching courses in areas such as cultural competency, health disparities, and social determinants of health.
  • Practicing with culturally diverse standardized patients.
  • Learning and working in a variety of clinical settings, including nursing homes, community health centers, or clinics in prisons and schools. Working with language interpreters and connecting to social service providers, such as meals programs and homeless shelters, provide vital learning experiences.
  • Recruiting students from more diverse backgrounds. Evidence suggests that health outcomes are better when patients can identify culturally with their healthcare providers.

Overcoming Hurdles to Implementation

Health professions schools face a number of challenges in educating health professions students to care for the underserved and recruiting a diverse student body, including:

  • Expanding clinical partners and training sites.
  • Making space in students’ already heavy workloads to introduce additional requirements.
  • Building interest in the health professions among students from underserved groups, establishing programs and support systems to ensure their academic success, and addressing barriers such as high tuition rates.
  • Recognizing a lack of diversity among faculty members, which may be contributing to the lack of diversity among students in health professions schools.

Learn about promising models we’ve funded

Transforming Pediatric Residency Training to Improve Care for Underserved Children

In January 2010, the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation awarded $500,311 to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to train pediatricians to care for the unique needs of underserved children and their families.

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From ACOs to Homeless Shelters: Health Professions Education in Arizona

With support from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona at Phoenix are implementing a graduate-level curriculum that will better prepare health professions students to provide primary care across urban and rural areas, serve an ethnically diverse population, and meet residents’ health care needs.

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Preparing Students to Face Refugee Health Challenges

How can soon-to-be-doctors play a part in helping refugees in their community?

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Ensuring Better Training for Physicians and Nurses

In 2009, a program to increase the number of doctors entering rural practice launched in New Roads, Louisiana A town where physicians are in short supply, it is ideal for exposing students to the rigors of practice in an underserved area.

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Caring for An Aging America

Through a combination of classroom and clinical experiences, students in the schools of pharmacy, nursing and medicine at the University of Pittsburgh are brought together to learn how to care for an aging population.

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Internal-Medicine-Pediatrics Urban Leadership Training Program

The Johns Hopkins Internal-Medicine-Pediatrics Urban Leadership Training Program is a two-phase multi-institutional program that creates a novel residency combining internal medicine and pediatrics to prepare physicians to become leaders in urban primary care in Baltimore and in other cities across the nation.

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News and Commentary


2020: A New Decade with New Opportunities

This past year held both triumphant, joyful moments as well as troubling events. Holly Humphrey looks forward into the new decade at how health professionals and the institutions who train them have the...

Why We Need More Hispanic Doctors

More than 18% of people in the United States are Hispanic, yet only 5% of U.S. doctors are Hispanic. We need a health care workforce that is diverse, that looks like and has had experiences like the public it serves.

Social Determinants of Health: A required curriculum

As our healthcare system changes to a model that promotes not only treating and curing disease but preventing illness in the first place, doctors must be prepared to keep their patients healthy.

Leveraging Simulation and Telehealth Technology to Empower Family Caregivers of Children with Asthma

Macy Faculty Scholar Cynthia Foronda, PhD, RN, CNE, CHSE, ANEF on closing the critical gap in family caregiver education.


Read Special Report of the President

In a new special report Macy looks back at ten years of progress and accomplishments, and spotlights the people and ideas that will continue to bring about change in health professions education reform.

Read New and Developing Medical Schools: Motivating Factors, Major Challenges, Planning Strategies Part 3

Michael E. Whitcomb’s new report highlights the motivating factors, challenges, and planning strategies faced by the six newest US medical schools and offers important lessons learned as they begin to enroll classes...

Read Innovations in Graduate Medical Education: Aligning Residency Training with Changing Societal Needs

The report spotlights innovations and promising new approaches to the content and financing of GME from across the country. The report captures highlights from the Macy Regional Conferences on Innovations in GME, a...

Read Medical School Expansion in the 21st Century: Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine

Michael Whitcomb and Douglas Wood document the motivating factors, major challenges, and planning strategies for the 11 new osteopathic medical schools that have opened since 2003.