Three inspiring leaders in health education will be honored by The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) as the 2013 Champions of Health Professions Diversity for their successful efforts to improve the health and wellness of California's most underserved communities. Kevin D. Williams of Berkeley Youth Alternatives organizes 27 programs for at-risk youth and young adults, and provides direction to graduate-level students entering the public health field. Sora Park Tanjasiri , an educator and researcher at the department of health science at California State University, Fullerton, has guided minority students into health professions, while addressing health disparities through community-based research programs. The late Dr. Antronette K. Yancey was a professor in the department of health services and cofounder of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity at UCLA; she was tireless in her commitment to ensure that research findings would be translated to community programs and policy to transform lives.
"This year's honorees have successfully guided California's underrepresented minority students to join the health workforce which has been demonstrated to improve health outcomes in underserved communities," said Dr. Barbara C. Staggers , TCWF board chair. "To continue to increase diversity in the health professions, we salute and honor these champions who will inspire others with this level of dedication."
On June 24, 2013, TCWF will honor these leaders at its eleventh annual Champions of Health Professions Diversity Award ceremony in Los Angeles. In recognition of their efforts to mentor and inspire students, increase access to higher education and better serve the health and well-being of California's underserved and disadvantaged communities, each honoree receives a cash award of $25,000.
As one of the only California foundations making grants in this area, TCWF has awarded more than $49 million to increase the diversity of the health workforce through a variety of approaches, including research, scholarship and loan repayment programs and leadership recognition. A number of factors have contributed to the Foundation's commitment to increasing California's health workforce and its diversity. Research funded by the Foundation confirms health worker shortages in several professions across the state, particularly in primary care and allied health, as well as a lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the health workforce.
"It is a tremendous privilege to recognize these stellar individuals for their outstanding commitment to communities of color and their groundbreaking work to increase the ethnic diversity of the health care workforce," said Crystal D. Crawford , TCWF program director.
Kevin D. Williams , J.D, M.P.H.
For almost two decades, Kevin D. Williams has advocated for improved health outcomes via directing youth programs, serving on boards, and mentoring and advising students and health professionals. He is currently the associate director of Berkeley Youth Alternatives (BYA), a community-based nonprofit organization for at-risk youth and young adults that operates 27 programs providing academic support, job readiness and counseling services. Williams also provides direction to graduate-level students at the School of Public Health at University of California, Berkeley interning in underserved communities.
"We want our communities to thrive, not just survive. It is about communication and collaboration with a workforce that reflects the community," Williams said. "We encourage the next generation of leaders to go into health fields, to do something beyond themselves."
Sora Park Tanjasiri , Dr.P.H., M.P.H.
As an educator, Sora Park Tanjasiri guides her students, particularly Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (APIs), to become health professionals in order to address health disparities documented by her extensive research. Professor of health science and director of the Health Promotion Research Institute at California State University, Fullerton, Tanjasiri believes that to overcome health disparities, APIs must be involved in every level of research, prevention and treatment. She trains her students to develop community-based research programs, navigate health care systems and advocate for policy changes in health care.
"We are creating a pipeline of health professionals from our communities who have the cultural expertise to develop appropriate interventions," said Tanjasiri. "Many of our students are of ethnic minorities, the first ever to go to college and go into health professions. They're inspiring."
Antronette K. Yancey , M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.P.M.
Most recognized for her program Instant Recess®, which addresses the nation's obesity epidemic, the late Dr. Antronette "Toni" Yancey also taught and mentored graduate students from underrepresented minority populations in health-related studies, served in the public health sector, and was a poet/spoken word artist. Yancey served as a professor in the department of health services at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health, and co-director of the UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity. As a professor, Dr. Yancey taught courses that included minority health and health disparities, and was an invited lecturer for more than 100 different presentations.
Yancey advocated for "a truer integration in employment and education, a deeper healing of cultural wounds, a more substantive commitment to combat health disparities…a more level playing field," in her poem, "A Momentous Occasion."
Dr. Yancey lost her battle with lung cancer at her home in Los Angeles on April 23, 2013; she was 55 years old.
The California Wellness Foundation