Increasing, supporting and cultivating diversity in health programs is key to addressing health inequities. We sought to investigate barriers and facilitators that could affect enrolment and success in health professions among people of African descent in Nova Scotia, Canada.
We conducted semistructured interviews with people who self-identified as being of African descent who resided or grew up in Nova Scotia, who were working in or pursuing a career in a health profession, and who had participated in culturally specific mentorship programs. Semistructured interviews explored participant experiences that shaped their pursuit of a health profession, as a person of African descent. We thematically analyzed transcribed interviews using constructivist grounded theory.
We interviewed 23 participants. Thematic coding showed 4 major themes. The theme of “stand on my shoulders” spoke to the importance of mentorship within the Black community. “Growing through pain” spoke to resilience amidst race-related challenges. “Never the student; ever the teacher” showed the repeated need to educate on issues of race or diversity. The final theme, “change,” highlighted next steps, including the need for improvement in curricula, for development of Black faculty and for initiatives that offer support.
We found that mentorship, particularly within the community, was instrumental to promoting feelings of belonging. However, participants described the need for resilience in the face of discrimination during training and in practice in health care professions. Rather than focusing on their education, many had to educate those around them. Increased representation, support programs and updated curricula are needed to promote change.