By Natacha Douglas, DHPE, MBA
By 2050, it is predicted that racial minorities will account for more than half of the U.S. population, according to the United States Census Bureau. However, the chiropractic profession is not representative of the national population regarding sex and race: 92 percent of chiropractors are white males, and only approximately 25 percent of chiropractors are women—even though 60 percent of the patients chiropractors serve are women.
Since the topic of retaining and graduating diverse students is a current concern that will affect the future of education in chiropractic colleges, I believe the need for more diverse chiropractors is clear. While a student in Logan University’s Doctorate of Health Professions Education (DHPE) program, I conducted research to help increase retention of diverse chiropractic students because I believe the only way to have more diverse chiropractors is to not only recruit them to chiropractic colleges, but to also graduate them.
Currently, among chiropractic students there is an overwhelming discrepancy between white students (about 90 percent) and the diverse student population (about 10 percent), despite recruitment efforts by educational institutions to increase diversity in student admissions.
Research was needed to validate the lack of diversity within the chiropractic profession as well as the major role educational institutions play in developing a more diverse healthcare workforce through recruitment, retention, curriculum development and campus environment. By using best practices, chiropractic college administrators will be able to better implement strategies designed to support a diverse student body to successfully complete a doctor of chiropractic degree.
To do so, I examined support systems at 14 chiropractic colleges in the U.S. to determine how effectively they increased retention to graduate more diverse students. In my assessment, only nine chiropractic colleges had strategies in place to retain diverse students, which included campus diversity and inclusion councils, multicultural club support and targeted recruitment. Other strategies that were highly rated included a designated employee to work on diversity initiatives as well as alumni mentor partnerships, academic support programs and diversity scholarship programs.
As both a student and a staff member, I understand that educational institutions play a major role in promoting, recruiting and cultivating diverse chiropractors. My research shines a light on the need for diversity in the classroom to improve learning outcomes for all students. More diversity in faculty, curriculum, cultures and opinions enriches the institution and its students. By the time a student graduates, they should already have experience interacting with peers from different cultures and ethnicities as a part of their education.
It’s not just about graduating diverse students. It’s about everyone benefitting from seeing diverse classmates to prepare for populations in the real world. I believe most colleges are not fully aware of these issues, and I plan to share my research findings with the colleges that participated in the study so they can improve their recruitment and retention of diverse students.
I hope my research pushes institutions to play a bigger role in implementing strategies to further increase the diversity of the profession. We have to start somewhere by getting diverse students interested, keeping them engaged and giving them the resources to succeed as a student and as a chiropractor.
Natacha Douglas is vice president of admissions and financial aid at Logan University in Chesterfield, Mo.
Editor's Note: ACA's Committee on Equity, Divesity and Inclusion conducted a diversity forum last year that touched on the need for more efforts to recruit minority students to the chiropractic profession. You can read that post here.