Sept. 19, 2007 -- The Virginia Department of Health has presented one of its five Commissioner's Healthcare Workforce Recognition Awards to Dr. Cato T. Laurencin, University Professor, Lillian T. Pratt Distinguished Professor and chairman of the University of Virginia Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. The awards honor the most innovative and successful efforts Virginia health care organizations and individuals use to recruit and retain health care workers.
"I am honored to receive this award from the Commonwealth and look forward to assisting in the continuing quest to improve healthcare in our state and in our nation through efforts involving diversity," Laurencin said. "Ensuring the diversity of the workforce can help us to address disparities that exist in health care, among many groups of people."
Because he is also a professor of biomedical engineering and chemical engineering at U.Va. and a musculoskeletal regeneration expert, Laurencin's influence extends to students preparing for careers in health-related engineering.
Laurencin's nomination cited his involvement in a number of programs, including the Fellowship Program in Academic Medicine for Minority Students, which is dedicated to improving the health of low-income and minority populations by increasing the number of minority physicians, and his current efforts in training minority medical students and residents who can address the special needs of their communities. He regularly meets with high school, college and graduate students to discuss health care-related professions and opportunities.
Laurencin's work is a model for others in the state. "We want to showcase the methods currently in use so others can replicate them and increase the number of initiatives aimed at recruiting and retaining much-needed health care providers for Virginia," said State Health Commissioner Robert B. Stroube.
This is the first year for the awards, which were presented Sept. 5 at the annual meeting of VDH's Health Workforce Advisory Committee meeting in Richmond.
As of late August, VDH has identified 101 localities that don't have enough doctors, dentists or mental health providers to care for the people who live there and designated them as health professional shortage areas. The department estimates that Virginia needs 112 primary care physicians, 126 dentists and 64 psychiatrists to eliminate the shortages that currently exist.