Monday, February 19, 2007

What Makes the NHSC Application Culturally Biased?

This was the question posed by an anonymous poster in the comments section of the related post. I will try to explain it here...

So. The point of the NHSC is to get med/pa/cnm/fnp students to work in economically depressed areas (which they call Health Professional Shortage Areas or HPSAs) which are in critical need of providers. The vast majority of professional students are middle to upper class non-minorities that do not come from these areas. Keeping that in mind, let's break down a question that is on this year's application/personality assessment:

Choose A or B:

A. "I would like to work in a community where the people and activities are different than those I grew up with."

B. "I would like to work in a community where the people and activities are the same as those I grew up with."

When advised about how to fill out this application (by people who were successfully awarded the scholarship) I was told "the answers they want to hear are obvious." I believe the answers are obvious to the majority of people filling out this questionnaire because the majority of people filling it out (students in professional schools) are NOT from HPSAs and they are supposed to be answering questions in a way that indicates that they are committed to working in these HPSAs...and therefore the "obvious" answer is "A" because if you want to work in the kind of community you (being the med student who's filling it out) grew up in, chances are that community doesn't qualify as an HPSA. Get it?

So, what happens if you happen to be one of the very, very few people who actually grew up in an HPSA? Technically, you should be circling "B" because the area you want to serve is actually the same kind of area you grew up in...but I don't think scantron-style reading of these bubble assessments will be taking that into consideration, which makes me wonder if someone in this situation shouldn't be answering as the typical professional school student, or themselves...and *this* is why I feel the assessment is culturally biased.

But anyway, I will tell you that I have already resolved all of this in my mind and am no longer really thinking about it. I am just going to fill out the form truthfully, and let the universe handle the rest.


Anonymous said...

Hon' the background on the NHSC, its authorizing legislation, and its current budget justification. Also re-read the instruction booklet for the NHSC application...

They will all tell you that applications by minority students or students at need are "weighted" more heavily. So answer honestly on your application and remember to do your research in the future.

"Loving Pecola" said...

I just want to quickly respond to you that I have in fact done my homework about this organization, including the original legislation that it arose from. I have much to say about how we determine "need" in this country and, consequently, how some folks might get left out of the NHSC loop. And I do believe I stated the following in the original post:

"I have read articles stating that at times the number of minority students in this program exceeds 50% of the total of participants."

So I am aware of the make up of the program, what I question is how the program arrives at that ratio - ie: have interviews been an important step in achieving this? Neither you nor I know the answer to that.

But right now I have finals and can't even begin to address it...but I will say please be careful not to jump to judgement so quickly about how much research you think I have or have not done, because really you don't know...

Continue to feel free to comment!

Anne said...

Please choose a lighter coloured template. I love your blog but I'm having hard time reading because the background is so dark (bad eyesight)


Anonymous said...

I agree with the original Anon poster. You have not done your research.

Students with backgrounds similar to yours would qualify at the very least for the "Third Priority" section meaning your application would have greater weight regardless of a personal interview. (2nd Priority + 3rd Priority would raise your paper application score even further.)

You should also pay attention to how Federal Funding has been increasingly limited for health professions programs. Research Title VII and Title VIII of the Public Health Service Act. The likely reason that personal interviews are not being conducted this year is the extremely limited budget of the Bureau of Health Professions.

National Health Service Corp Scholarship Program
2007 • 2008 Applicant Information Bulletin

Section 4:
Funding Priorities


Former NHSC Scholarship Recipients

Former NHSC Scholarship Program recipients who are seeking support for the 2007-2008 academic year, or through their date of ­graduation;

Recipients of Federal Scholarship Program for Students of Exceptional Financial Need (EFN) (Medical Students Only)

Applicants who have received a Scholarship for Students of Exceptional Financial Need under former section 736 of the PHS Act (42 U.S.C. 293) qualify for a funding priority. Applicants claiming EFN status must submit by March 30, 2007, written documentation from their school’s financial aid official of their current or former participation in the EFN Program.


Applicants with HPSA Retention Characteristics

Applications and interviews will be scored numerically based on the extent to which the applicants appear to have characteristics that increase the probability they will continue to practice in HPSAs after they have completed their service commitments. These characteristics include:

Strong primary care post-service career goals in HPSAs;
Experience within indigent or underserved communities;
Understanding and acceptance of the mission of the NHSC; and
Intent to participate in pre-professional clinical experiences in rural or urban community-based health care facilities serving HPSAs. Settings for such experiences may include community health centers, migrant health centers, Indian Health Service Centers and Hospitals, Bureau of Prisons health facilities, AIDS outpatient clinics, drug abuse treatment centers, clinics for the homeless, or family practice clinical settings outside of a hospital.


Applicants From Disadvantaged Backgrounds

Applicants who have the HPSA retention characteristics and who also are certified as having come from “disadvantaged backgrounds” will be selected for awards before those who are not certified as disadvantaged.

For Medical and Dental Students: Applicants’ schools must certify that the applicants participated in, or would have been eligible for participation in, Federal programs such as “Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students” and “Loans to Disadvantaged Students.”
For Nursing and Physician Assistant Students: Their schools must certify that the applicants participated in, or would have been eligible for participation in, Federal programs such as AScholarships for Disadvantaged Students” or the benefits of the “Nursing Workforce Diversity Grants.”
Applicants who wish to claim “disadvantaged background” should submit with their applications a written statement from the student financial aid administrator certifying their participation in, or eligibility for participation in, a qualifying Federal program.

For information about programs for disadvantaged students, visit the website