The College of Health Professions (COHP) at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) has a 50-year history of educating outstanding health professionals to address the healthcare needs of the people of Tennessee, the nation, and the world. Annually, our 300+ graduates supply a workforce of medical leaders trained in Interprofessional Education (IPE) and prepared to partner with primary care professionals in providing inclusive care that minimizes health disparities. In alignment with UTHSC’s core values, the COHP is committed to fostering the excellence that emerges from a diverse, equitable, and inclusive health community. In addition, the College of Health Professions recognizes the significance of continuing to develop our faculty, staff, and students’ cultural competency and fluidity through a social justice lens. The UTHSC College of Health Professions’ Re-imagining Education for Advanced Careers in Healthcare (REACH) project provides a continuum of tailored enrichment academies that support the academic and social needs of students from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds who are interested in pursuing a career in the health professions of clinical laboratory sciences, occupational therapy, or physical therapy. The goal is to improve retention, matriculation, and graduation rates for underserved students as they are guided through the educational pipeline from high school to community college or four-year college to a graduate health professions program. It also provides opportunities for community-based health professions training, emphasizing experiences in underserved communities. The COHP has over 400 clinical partners, with almost fifty percent located in an HRSA-designated medically underserved area (MUA). During the five-year grant period, REACH will serve approximately 300 eligible rising high school juniors/seniors, undergraduate and graduate health professions degree students through three
structured programs – (1) HCOP Saturday Academy, (2) HCOP Pre-matriculation Program, and (3) HCOP National Ambassadors Program. Each academy provides its target population of students from educationally or economically disadvantaged backgrounds with an evidenced-based curriculum and activities utilizing innovative designs and advanced technology like flipped classrooms and virtual, augmented, and mixed reality tools. In addition, student success will be enhanced through financial (stipends, scholarships), academic (social determinants of health curriculum, test prep), social (tutors, mentors), and professional (clinical practicum, soft skills training) support. Collaboratively, with community partners, these resources create a competitive educational pipeline to increase the recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of underserved students interested in careers in health professions.