In 1978, the Illinois State Legislature called for the formation of the Urban Health Program (UHP) at the University of Illinois at Chicago in response to community protests and outcries that significant health care disparities plagued the state’s poor, urban, mostly minority communities. The Urban Health Program was to attract and support more students from traditionally underserved populations into the degree programs at UIC that lead to health care careers, with the belief that those who graduated were more likely to practice in the communities that most needed them. In 1979, the first students recruited as part of the Urban Health Program enrolled in the health professions colleges of UIC.
Today, UHP’s efforts are coordinated by a Central Administrative office that supports and oversees the efforts of individual program offices in each of UIC’s Health Sciences Colleges (Applied Health Sciences, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health), as well as a program office in the Graduate College. While the program offices in each of the colleges work directly with students in their respective colleges, the administrative office produces cross – curricular activities and programs for all UHP students, and also coordinates general recruitment and outreach initiatives.
UHP has excelled at its mission from the beginning. UHP actively recruits students from Chicago’s neighborhoods and from other underserved communities throughout the state. UHP faculty and staff provide ongoing support and mentoring to Black, Latino and Native American students enrolled in all of UIC’s health science colleges, as well as any other degree programs that might lead to careers in health care or medical research. When UHP students graduate, they often work within underserved communities, particularly in the city of Chicago. It is estimated that nearly 70% of all Black and Latino doctors practicing in Chicago are graduates of UIC and the Urban Health Program or its predecessor programs. UHP is truly impacting the medical service deficiencies that have traditionally plagued underserved communities, just as state legislators hoped it would when they voted to establish UHP 30 years ago.