Often, I have heard that you learn more by way of experience than from school. I found this to be true as during the past year and a half that I have worked with the Bowen Center. I have learned valuable information that has made me a well-rounded public health professional and have gained an abundance of skills. The Bowen Center has taught me about the importance of access to care, diversity in our health workforce, and expanding care through policy implications such as health workforce training programs, loan repayment programs, and other means to retaining our health workforce.

Diversity in the health workforce is important for creating a thriving and successful work environment and work culture for all health professions. Moreover, diversity in the health workforce is crucial for both better access to care and higher quality of care for underserved communities (Walker, et al, 2012).[1] Recruitment of a diverse staff can lead to the removal of barriers to health-care access in these underserved communities. A workforce that is diverse in race, ethnicity, sex, and age can lead to delivering the best possible care to diverse patient populations (Stanford, 2020).[2] Higher quality of care in these areas then leads to increased patient satisfaction, which can also improve the overall health outcomes of Indiana (Gomez, 2019) (Harker, 2020)[3], [4]. Considering this impact, it is no wonder that recruiting and retaining a diverse health workforce has become a top priority at the state and federal levels.  

I participated in an examination of diversity in Indiana’s health workforce, and the first examination used historical data specific to Indiana physicians gathered during license renewal. This data shows much growth in diversity among physicians over the last 25 years. In 1997, less than 20% of physicians identified as non-white. In 2021, nearly one-third of fell into this group. Likewise, gender diversity has also increased, with women making up 18% in Indiana physicians 1997 and 32% in 2021.

More than looking at the numbers, I also examined the multitude of programs and initiatives which address workforce diversity and aim to support early recruitment of health professionals from underrepresented communities. Elements of these programs and initiatives may include incentive programs, such as scholarships and loan repayment options. It is essential to understand how important programs like these are and their roles in increasing the amount of diversity in the health workforce in Indiana.

Chelsea Sparks

Graduate Research Assistant

I utilized this experience in my graduate work by creating a pilot program for one of my master’s degree courses with guidance from the Bowen Center. This program was named “Better Together in the Physician Workforce” and aimed to promote culturally inclusive, and diversity driven workplace environments, starting with 3 program implementation locations. This program promotes change in diversity at these three locations through increased educational opportunities on the importance of workplace diversity, increased culturally sensitive materials, and opportunities for scholarship. The intended outcome of this program is that physicians working in these implementation locations will feel a better sense of belonging in their work environment, workplace culture will harbor diversity and inclusion overall, and physicians could further their education from funding opportunities such as scholarships or grants. It is important to me that I have contributed in some way to achieving health equity and the better representation of underrepresented minority group members and I feel as though I have done just that by building this program. This program has not been implemented; however, it is important to me that the entire program structure be built in hopes of one day launching a similar program and increasing diversity rates among the health workforce.

From this position, I now have several useful skills and even publications that I possess and can take with me to my future career. I currently have been working on a diversity report series that encompasses 11 different health professions for about a year now. This report series provides longitudinal trends in health workforce diversity in hopes of informing existing programs which aim to diversify the health workforce. I understand that I have contributed not only to public health, but also population health. Throughout this working experience I have been able to learn about higher level concepts regarding healthcare and how these concepts are tied to specific policies and impact public health overall. Not only did this graduate employment opportunity allow me to build public health skills, but it also gave me a deeper understanding of how the health workforce and other issues impact health equity. I now understand what racial concordance means and how healthcare workers reflect the populations that they serve

My colleagues at the Bowen Center have not only been the best mentors but have also given some of the best guidance and life advice to help me on my way. The Bowen Center also provides a space where I have maintained close relationships with my mentors and other coworkers. I understand that the next individual welcomed to the team as a graduate research assistant will gain a large amount of knowledge and plentiful experiences. I am thankful for this opportunity and am excited for the future.

If you would have asked me if I would have thought that at the start of my college career I would be in school for 7 years, I would have laughed.  So, as for me, I am not sure what my future holds, but I am sure that I am prepared for my next adventure as this team has helped me prepare a foundation for the career that I will pursue.


[1] Walker, K. O., Moreno, G., & Grumbach, K. (2012). The Association Among Specialty, Race, Ethnicity, and Practice Location Among California Physicians in Diverse Specialties. Journal of the National Medical Association104(1-2), 46–52. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0027-9684(15)30126-7

[2] Stanford FC. The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in the Healthcare Workforce. J Natl Med Assoc. 2020 Jun;112(3):247-249. doi: 10.1016/j.jnma.2020.03.014. Epub 2020 Apr 23. PMID: 32336480; PMCID: PMC7387183.

[3] Harker, L. (2020, January 15). Unlocking the Benefits of an Inclusive Health Workforce. Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. Retrieved November 14, 2022, from https://gbpi.org/unlocking-benefits-diverse-health-workforce/

[4] Gomez LE, Bernet P. Diversity Improves Performance and Outcomes. J Natl Med Assoc. 2019 Aug;111(4):383-392. doi: 10.1016/j.jnma.2019.01.006. Epub 2019 Feb 11. PMID: 30765101.