Cultural Understanding Seminars Enhance Healthcare for Underserved Populations

Achievement date: 

The NSF-funded Precise Advanced Technologies and Health Systems for Underserved Populations (PATHS-UP) Engineering Research Center (ERC), which is headquartered at Texas A&M University (TAMU), was established to change the paradigm for the health of underserved populations by developing revolutionary and cost-effective technologies and systems at the point of care. The Center places high value on understanding societal issues both in their labs and offices and among the people PATHS-UP seeks to help. Throughout its tenure, the Center has conducted an ongoing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Workshop Series for staff at TAMU and PATHS-UP partner institutions, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Rice University, and Florida International University (FIU).


PATHS-UP nurtures and maintains a culture of inclusive (COI) excellence by acknowledging, educating, appreciating, and nurturing diversity, uniqueness, and belongingness and maximizing the effectiveness of the PATHS-UP enterprise. In 2021, the Center continued hosting its virtual seminar series on equity, diversity, and inclusion led by certified implicit-bias trainer Dr. Valencia Walker, Associate Division Chief for Health Equity and Inclusion at The Ohio State University. Sessions occur twice per year and include a lecture, implicit association testing, follow-up discussions, and homework. In 2021, the sessions built upon previous ones and were broadcast to all PATHS-UP campuses. These sessions were also advertised to all ERCs, and attendees included NSF representatives as well as ERC leaders from multiple other Centers. In this program year, PATHS-UP had two sessions, one in October 2020 on the primary topic of Microaggressions and another in May 2021 on Mentoring. The sessions were assessed with surveys administered to gauge the effectiveness of the series.


PATHS-UP is committed to diversity and inclusion in all aspects of its mission. Underserved communities in every U.S. state have a higher prevalence of disease and less access to equitable healthcare services. Thus, many people in these communities go undiagnosed or are diagnosed late, leading to severe consequences. To address this challenge, PATHS-UP is focused initially on developing advanced technologies to prevent, delay the onset, and manage diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This requires both the development of transformational health technologies and systems and a paradigm shift in how these technologies are integrated into communities. PATHS-UP is also dedicated to recruiting and educating a diverse group of scientists and engineers who are ready to lead the future in developing enabling technologies to improve health in underserved communities