Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Donna Talbot

Second Advisor

Dr. Patricia Reeves

Third Advisor

Dr. Robert Bensley


Health professions, pipeline programs, underrepresented minorities


Classified as a public health concern, the lack of underrepresented minorities (URMs) in the U.S. health care workforce is still prominent today, even with the increase of URM groups having reached historic numbers of representation within the United States. It is projected that by 2050, URM groups will replace Whites as the majority, yet Whites currently make up the majority of the health care workforce. URM health professionals are more likely to provide accessible and culturally competent health services, and practice in racially and ethnically diverse communities. This helps to eliminate health care disparities, and reduces inequities found in disadvantaged communities.

In order to achieve the diversity needed in health care, a paradigm shift will be needed to necessitate this change. A primary area of focus needs to be directed at increasing the number of URMs in health professions programs, in order to ultimately increase the numbers in the health care workforce. One popular means of increasing URM representation are pipeline programs. They have been the most successful mechanism to date. Utilizing pipeline programs, coupled with understanding the lived experiences underrepresented minority students in health professions programs have is vital to creating environments that yield the best outcomes for these students.

To examine this phenomenon, a phenomenological study was conducted to gain a better understanding of URM students who choose, enroll in, and persist in health professions programs. The study included seven URM students who have participated in a pipeline program and are currently enrolled in a college or university health professions program. These participants were interviewed to better understand how they reflect on their lived experiences and identify what experiences they believe accounted for their decision to enroll in a health professions program. Based on the participants’ descriptions of their lived experiences, four themes and four subthemes emerged. Those themes include: access and participation, curriculum and quality teaching and learning, social and emotional development, and developing social capital. The themes capture the nature of the URM participants’ lived experiences as they saw them and speaks to their experiences from academic and a socio-emotional views.

The results shed some light on the experiences of URM students, their pathways to health professions programs, and the reasoning behind choosing health professions. These findings can provide guidance for those who are involved in health professions pipeline programs, university health professions programs, and high school programs, in order to create stronger learning environments for URM students. As these environments are strengthened, there is a greater potential towards increasing the overall pool of URM candidates in health professions programs, thereby, increasing the overall rate of URM health professionals who can ultimately work to reduce the inequalities found in disadvantaged communities.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access