$1.8 Million Grant Funds Health Careers Opportunity Program

Multicultural Disadvantaged Students Are Focus of Effort

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Sora Tanjasiri, chair and professor of health science and director of Cal State Fullerton’s Health Promotion Research Institute, wants to broaden students’ understanding of career options in the healthcare field, particularly in allied health.

To help achieve this goal, she and Shari McMahan, CSUF deputy provost and professor of health science, have been awarded a three-year grant of $1.8 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration. First-year funding is $488,566.

The grant will enable the North Orange County Allied and Other Health Careers Opportunity Program (NOCA HOCP) to increase outreach efforts to disadvantaged Latino, Pacific Islander and Southeast Asian students in north Orange County. Tanjasiri and McMahan are directing the program.

“Many students want to work in health care, but the people they typically see are doctors and nurses,” Tanjasiri said. “It’s understandable that they focus on those careers because that’s what they’re familiar with,” she added. “We want students to recognize that there are many viable options in healthcare fields, particularly in allied health, which may be as rewarding, but with less training than medicine.”

The two also cite an increased demand for allied health professionals in such fields as: physical and occupational therapy, communicative disorders, counseling, social work and public health, including environmental health specialists, epidemiologists, health educators and gerontologists.

“In minority communities, the need is particularly high as there may also be language and cultural barriers,” Tanjasiri noted. “Many Latinos, Pacific Islanders and Southeast Asians feel more comfortable talking to someone who speaks their language, understands some of the cultural sensitivities, and can address problems that might be specific to their particular cultures, such as a reluctance to disclose emotional issues or discuss family problems. These groups are among the fastest growing in Orange County, which is already a majority-minority area.”

The grant will not only provide funding to assist in outreach to underserved communities, but also will help prepare students for careers in allied health professions by providing an array of student support services to help ensure student success from high school to graduate school. 

Cal State Fullerton is working in cooperation with Cypress College, the Anaheim Union High School District and the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance, a nonprofit, community-based organization that aims to build healthy Asian and Pacific Islander communities, as well as UC Irvine, Cal State Dominguez Hills and Western University of Health Sciences. The goal is to increase the pipeline of disadvantaged Latinos, Pacific Islanders and Southeast Asians into the allied health fields.

“Our goal is to work with 450 students over the next three years,” Tanjasiri said. “We’ll work with 150 high school students, 150 community college students and 150 university students. We’re hoping to increase the retention and graduation rates of these diverse groups and become a model for the other universities in the California State University system and other minority-serving institutions around the country.

“This was an incredibly competitive process and we join a distinguished group of grantees that includes Howard University, University of Washington and Johns Hopkins University,” said McMahan. “It’s an incredible honor and will allow us to provide even more opportunities to minority students in the region.”