Samuel Merritt University Joins National Organization to Reduce Health Disparities

Samuel Merritt University



Samuel Merritt University Joins National Organization to Reduce Health Disparities;
Two-Day Seminar to Increase Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia

(Oakland, Ca, June 10, 2012) "We cannot build a healthier America if our country continues to face a growing health professions shortage," according to Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "A well-trained, educated and diverse workforce is critical to meeting future healthcare demands, and to reforming the nation's healthcare system."

The Program of Nurse Anesthesia at Samuel Merritt University (SMU) is doing its part to address the challenge of developing a diverse workforce by partnering with the Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program, a national organization offering workshops designed to prepare more minority registered nurses for careers as anesthesia professionals.

Beginning Saturday, June 9, nearly 100 registered nurses from across the United States who specialize in critical care and nursing students preparing to become critical care nurses, all hoping to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) will be in attendance at the Diversity CRNA Information Session being held on the SMU Oakland campus. The two-day event will start with a panel discussion about the need to increase diversity in nursing as a first step to increasing diversity in advanced practice nursing specialties.

"We will talk about the need and goals to increase diversity for underrepresented minority nurses to successfully matriculate into nurse anesthesia programs throughout the country," explains Wallena Gould, CRNA, MSN, Founder, Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program. "A CRNA panel will also discuss the transition from being a student nurse anesthetist to practicing as an independent practitioner, the importance of being active on the state and national level in our nurse anesthesia associations, and how to be a competitive applicant."

According to data from the 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses (RN), nurses from minority backgrounds represented 16.8% of the RN workforce. Considering racial/ethnic backgrounds, the RN population is comprised of 5.4% African American; 3.6% Hispanic; 5.8% Asian/Native Hawaiian; 0.3% American Indian/Alaskan Native; and 1.7% multi-racial nurses. Interestingly, a recent survey conducted by the Nurse Anesthesia Program at Wayne State University, reveals that 16 percent of student nurse anesthetists are non-caucasian.

"Like many other healthcare profession disciplines, nurse anesthesia education programs face the challenge of recruiting, retaining and graduating a sufficient number of qualified students to meet the healthcare workforce demands," explains Celeste Villanueva, CRNA, MS, Director of SMU's Program of Nurse Anesthesia and of the University's Health Sciences Simulation Center. "A significant aspect of this challenge is achieving an ethnically and a culturally diverse student mix that reflects the patient population of the local community - in California, that population is highly likely to be comprised of a percentage of people with minority backgrounds far greater than 16 percent."

"At Samuel Merritt University, we strongly believe that cultural competency profoundly influences how health professionals deliver healthcare," said Scot Foster, PhD, Academic Vice President and Provost. "It is imperative that administrators and faculty in nurse anesthesia programs be acutely aware of new and innovative ways in which to teach our students to deliver highly competent anesthesia care within the context of the patient's lived cultural experience."

To increase the attendees' awareness of the rigors and challenges of a nurse anesthesia curriculum and to provide them a glimpse of the innovative learning methods utilized by the SMU faculty, an all-day Airway Simuliation Lab at the Oakland campus' Health Sciences Simulation Center on Sunday, June 10. More than six dozen nurses will be guided through hands-on experience on the anesthesia machine and airway equipment, and will interact with human-like mannequins, managed by highly sophisticated computer software.

"We take every opportunity to expose future healthcare professionals to the benefits of simulation-based education," explains Villanueva. "With the immersive experiences and self-reflection that are characteristic of simulation instructional methods, healthcare providers have the opportunity to develop and refine their technical and decision-making skills without putting patients at risk."

Interviews and photo/filming opportunities available:


Sunday, June 10, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. thru 11:30 a.m.


Samuel Merritt University 450 30th Street Oakland 94609 at the Health Sciences Simulation Center Simulation Lab


More than six dozen nurses will simulate aspects of anesthesia care using the anesthesia machine and airway equipment, conduct intubations and fibercroptic bronochoscope on computerized human-like mannequins


Elizabeth Valente, Director of Media Relations at 510.725.7980 and

Samuel Merritt University, located in Oakland, California, has been educating health science practitioners who are committed to making a positive difference in diverse communities since 1909.  Nearly 1,400 students are enrolled at SMU, with campuses in Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Mateo.  The University offers an undergraduate degree in nursing; master's degrees in nursing, occupational therapy, and physician assistant; and doctoral degrees in nursing, physical therapy and podiatric medicine.

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