Students in various health care disciplines will begin a new University of Colorado program next academic year that focuses on urban health-care needs and solutions.

It is called CU-UNITE (Colorado Urban Underserved Interdisciplinary Health Training and Education) and is a new urban-underserved track on the Anschutz Medical Campus. Each year, CU-UNITE plans to recruit 10 students from the School of Medicine, 10 students from the Nurse Practitioner program at the College of Nursing, and three from the Physician Assistant program.

“The goal is to train students interested in urban underserved communities,” says Allegra Melillo, MD, who heads this effort through the Colorado Area Health Education Center Program office. She obtained a $938,000 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation for the urban track.

The four-year track will teach students about health care inequities and health issues of specific populations of patients in urban areas. Students will be able to complete their clinical training at local health care sites used by underserved urban patients, to receive stipends to participate in Spanish-immersion programs, and to work with community-service organizations, according to Melillo.

The University of Colorado School of Medicine already offers a Rural Track. Some rural Colorado counties lack even one primary-care physician.

Areas of Metro Denver also have significant needs. Often, urban patients are uninsured or underinsured, are from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, and may have social and/or psychological issues along with other medical problems, Melillo says. Providing quality health care to these patients can be complex and challenging. Therefore CU-UNITE faculty will give additional mentoring and support to students to prepare them for their career.

“The idea is to make sure you are effective as a health-care provider with patients who may have a different cultural, literacy or socio-economic background than you do,” says Melillo, who also serves as director of Aurora LIGHTS, a federally funded pipeline program to help disadvantaged students enter health-care professions.

The medical school is participating in other inclusive programs. For example, this fall, 10 diverse students will begin an eight-year “BA/BS-MD” program that will take them through undergraduate classes at the University of Colorado Denver with the opportunity to then enter medical school on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

Faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine work to advance science and improve care. These faculty members include physicians, educators and scientists at University of Colorado Hospital, The Children’s Hospital, Denver Health, National Jewish Health, and the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Degrees offered by the School of Medicine include doctor of medicine, doctor of physical therapy, and masters of physician assistant studies. The school is located on the Anschutz Medical Campus, one of four campuses in the University of Colorado system. For additional news and information, please visit the UC Denver newsroom online.