Helping First-Generation, Underserved Students Pursue Health Care Careers

Helping First-Generation, Underserved Students Pursue Health Care Careers

Community | June 1st, 2021

Reading Time: 3 Minute/s

Community Health Plan of Washington takes our responsibility for advancing health equity to heart every day.


Health disparities impact different parts of Washington’s communities disproportionally, so we look for many different ways to work with our members, our providers, our staff and community to address their unique needs. For us, the “power of community” isn’t just a tagline. It’s a core belief that our members and their families are best served by resources from within their own communities.

Having health care staff that reflects the community can help dismantle barriers to health care and restore trust with populations that are underserved.

That’s why we’re pleased to announce that Sea Mar Community Health Centers and Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW) have partnered to seed an endowment at the University of Washington Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity and UW Bothell for first-generation, low income and underserved students who are studying health care.

With a focus on diversity and inclusion, we aim to ensure there is more equitable representation in the health care provider community going forward.

Sea Mar and CHPW have gifted $25,000 each to the University of Washington to seed a new endowment. The organizations are working with the community to raise additional funding, and once the endowment reaches $100,000, it will offer scholarships to students in support of their education in any health-related field.

Additional donations can be made here

We’re doing this for people like Jesus Soto:

“Working professionally in the medical field as a community navigator, I often serve other Spanish-speaking immigrants like myself. I frequently provide interpretation or act as a cultural liaison, and patients often have more trust in me than they do an English-only speaking doctor or nurse, and that’s an issue,” said Jesus Soto, a community navigator at Sea Mar.

“Upon this realization, I knew that I needed to become a health provider. As a low-income first-generation Latino immigrant, I have had to work harder than my peers to even get the opportunity to compete for a seat in medical school. I have defied the odds, and now that I have been accepted to medical school, I’m honored that the organization that has supported me through this process will be making an even bigger impact on my Latino community and other minority groups. I hope that scholarships like the one Sea Mar, CHPW and the University of Washington are creating will eliminate financial barriers for people of color, so that more people have the opportunity to serve their communities, ultimately improving the lives of those often left behind.”

There is a lack of diversity among health care providers.

66% of active physicians in Washington state identify as white, 21% Asian, 3% Hispanic, 2% Black or African American, and only 1% American Indian or Alaskan Native. Yet, a diverse healthcare workforce has resulted in better care for diverse populations, higher levels of trust and greater patient satisfaction.

“This initiative provides an opportunity to strengthen our power of community, both for the individuals who will have greater opportunities to realize their hopes and dreams, and for their communities,” said Leanne Berge, CEO of Community Health Plan of Washington and Community Health Network of Washington. “We’re pleased to be able to contribute to this important initiative with our partners at Sea Mar and the University of Washington, and look forward to seeing this endowment grow to support the education of first-generation students for years to come.”

Comments are closed.