Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra Visits SMU

Talya Sanders

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra visited Samuel Merritt University’s Oakland campus on June 15 to launch a new program designed to boost the diversity of the nation’s healthcare workers.

The Health and Human Services Health Workforce Initiative will explore ways to improve the health workforce pipeline, expand recruitment and retention, and deliver career advancement opportunities with a strong focus on equity.

Becerra toured SMU’s health science simulation lab and participated in a private roundtable discussion about improving the healthcare workforce with students, faculty, and community leaders, including Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao. During a press conference, Becerra and Thao spoke of the importance of training new healthcare professionals who speak the languages of their patients, come from their communities, and understand the challenges they face. 

XB Visit

“The HHS Health Workforce Initiative wants to feed the healthcare workforce pipeline, and we want to make sure that the pipeline starts in communities that are already underserved,” Becerra said. “We’re going to do everything we can to build that workforce working with our partners at the state level throughout the country, and certainly in places like Samuel Merritt University.” 

“Samuel Merritt University is committed to diversifying and transforming healthcare, which makes it an exemplary health sciences university for the launch of the Health Workforce Initiative,” said Dr. Ching-Hua Wang, SMU president. 



“We have a proven track record of training skilled and caring professionals who come from the communities they go on to serve, and we’re committed to growing the healthcare workforce in California.” 

SMU has extensive plans for rapid growth and expansion that align with the new HHS initiative, she said. SMU recently broke ground on its new flagship campus in Oakland City Center, plans are underway to double student enrollment over the next decade including in three new programs, and SMU is strengthening partnerships with local healthcare providers and community care organizations. 

“With Secretary Becerra’s visit, we are proud to play a role in helping more communities across the country learn about ideas and programs that are at the core of what we do here at Samuel Merritt University,” said Wang.

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