Raising Awareness of Health Professionals Education Among Rural Nebraska Latino Youth

Research & Engagement, 2016


Health professions shortages represent a challenge to the sustainability of rural communities. While there are insufficient rural health professionals in general, Latinos are virtually absent from this workforce. This study will develop strategies to raise awareness of health professions education among rural Nebraska Latino high school and college students, resulting in increased numbers of Latino youth who pursue health professions.


To better understand and address the underrepresentation of Latinos in health profession programs at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the Rural Health Education Network (RHEN) conducted three focus group studies in the spring of 2017, consisting of 27 Latino youths between the ages of 14 and 29. The study sought to understand what factors might explain the absence of Latinos in health profession programs in Nebraska and identify ways in which UNMC might adapt its recruitment strategy to address this underrepresentation.

The key challenges identified relate to academic preparation, economic hardship, and the cost of pursuing higher education. Participants who were the first in their family to pursue a college or university education had limited knowledge of resources and opportunities. Furthermore, participants expressed that Latino youth are often expected to contribute to their family’s household income, limiting their ability to participate in extracurricular activities.

UNMC can address these challenges by developing bi-lingual, culturally and linguistically appropriate recruitment materials and compile a database of existing services offered through UNMC, such as mentoring, tutoring, and student interest groups. Latino health professions students who are already enrolled at UNMC can be engaged in outreach and recruitment efforts, including reaching out to high schools and undergraduate institutions with high concentrations of Latino students and inviting Latino youth and their families to visit the campus.


Project Team


  • University of Nebraska at Kearney
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska
  • Central Community College
  • Doane College
  • Nebraska Department of Education Division of Multicultural Education/Diversity
  • Grand Island Latino Leadership Group
  • Grand Island Senior High
  • St. Francis Hospital
  • Department of Health and Human Services


Contact: Patrik Johansson, pjohansson@unmc.edu