MSU Denver receives $1.4 million gift to grow and diversify Colorado’s struggling health care workforce
The Colorado Access Health Career Pipeline Program will help remove hurdles for students pursuing clinical positions.
The Health Institute at Metropolitan State University of Denver has received significant financial contributions from Colorado Access and the Colorado Access Foundation to grow a diverse health care workforce that meets Colorado’s urgent need for skilled providers.
The combined $1.4 million gift will help fund the Colorado Access Health Scholars Program, the Colorado Access Health Scholars Scholarship, the Colorado Access Speech-Language Pathology Graduate Scholarship and the Health Institute’s capital fund and programming, all of which fall beneath the umbrella of the Colorado Access Health Career Pipeline Program.
The funding will help address what a recent Mercer study anticipated as a shortage of 54,000 health care workers and 10,000 Registered Nurses in Colorado by 2026.
At the Nov. 2 event announcing the gift, Emily Matuszewicz, Ph.D., Health Institute director of Development and Partnerships at MSU Denver, said the programmatic and physical growth of the Health Institute will “dramatically increase the number of graduates into the health workforce to more than 1,000 annually.”
Program highlights include a partnership with Aurora Community College offering mentorship and stipends to students interested in health fields, cohorts, scholarships, wraparound services and improved facilities and research technologies benefiting students and individuals receiving health care services on campus.
And because evidence strongly suggests that patients prefer health care providers who can understand their background and cultural norms, a vital component of the program focuses on delivering culturally responsive care. Students are trained in equity, cultural fluency and interprofessional collaboration, enabling them to provide high-quality care to people with diverse backgrounds and needs.
Annie Lee, president and CEO of health care nonprofit Colorado Access and chair of the Colorado Access Foundation board of directors, understands firsthand the need for a health care workforce that reflects and represents its patient population.
“I’m first-generation Korean-American, and I first started dealing with the health care system as a kid trying to help my parents navigate the system,” she said. “With a more representative and diverse workforce, you would have better health outcomes and, hopefully, kids and youth would not be put in that position.”
Master of Social Work candidate J.R. Gallegos, a scholarship recipient and peer mentor specializing in addiction counseling and primary mental health, grew up bilingual in a culturally Hispanic town in New Mexico and is drawn to the field, having traveled the path of addiction, mental health and treatment himself.
“If you do not speak English, if you are undocumented, if you are addicted to drugs and facing the stigma of needing mental-health care, it is possible that you suffer in silence,” he said. “I know from personal experience the desperation. You look for someone you can trust, and I believe I can be that trusted provider, being someone who looks like the clients I’m working with and sharing the language and culture.”
RELATED: Banking on the future of health care
With the demand and need for health care outpacing the current workforce, Lee believes it is a timely, important and impactful time for Colorado Access and the Colorado Access Foundation to partner with the University.
“Our mission is to support and empower communities through affordable, equitable and quality health care,” she said. “MSU Denver reflects our values and connects with our mission, sharing a passion for social justice and health equity.
“Through this investment, we are contributing to the health care landscape and strengthening the future of behavioral health.”
Support the Health Institute by making your gift today.