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Mentoring tomorrow’s healthcare providers through Healthcare Interest Program

September 01, 2016

The Healthcare Interest Program (HIP) is a Denver Health grassroots initiative that offers mentoring to under-privileged and minority college students, empowering and encouraging them to pursue training in medicine or in other health care professions. It was created by Dr. Lilia Cervantes as a result of her experiences growing up in poverty in Denver and not having access to healthcare while learning to speak English as a second language. 

HIP students shadow physicians and other healthcare providers in the hospital or clinics, attend lectures that connect basic science coursework with real-world healthcare topics and health disparities, and take part in a book club. In completing the program, students have a better understanding of the healthcare experience, how general science concepts are used in the healthcare setting, and become motivated to pursue healthcare careers. Health disparities present a formidable challenge nationwide and especially in Denver County.  The goal of HIP is to empower undergraduate students at UCD, who often come from similar socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds as the diverse group of patients at DH, to succeed in their education and step up to those healthcare inequities by pursuing a healthcare career.  The long-term goal of this mentorship program is to recruit and attract these students to the University of Colorado post-graduate healthcare schools thereby increasing diversity in our healthcare workforce and motivating these students to work with patients in underserved areas.

Increasing the number of minority healthcare providers is a pressing need, particularly for Denver.  Minority physicians are more likely to choose primary care specialties, choose to provide care for the under-served and focus their research and programs on underserved populations.  Considerable data document that outcomes are improved when physicians and patients share a common language and culture. 

A survey was conducted to assess the program’s effectiveness at the end of the 2010 term.  All students reported that their mentor had become their role model in life, that their long-term career goal was to work with patients from underserved communities and that they intended to continue their schooling in Colorado. 

Dr. Cervantes completed all of her undergraduate and graduate training at the University of Colorado and is currently a hospitalist at Denver Health and is passionate about providing care for the underserved.  For her efforts in developing the HIP Dr. Cervantes received the Rosa Parks Award and the President’s Diversity award from the University of Colorado in 2010.  The Denver Health Foundation is proud to help support such a worthwhile program.   To make a contribution to HIP, please click here.

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