For the fourth consecutive year, minority women pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees in healthcare fields can apply for 16 scholarships worth $2,500 to use toward tuition

The deadline to apply for the Go Red Multicultural Scholarship Fund for 2015 scholarships is Dec. 31, 2014. The scholarships are provided through a partnership between Macy’s and the American Heart Association.

“Each year, these scholarships help to support multicultural women pursuing their education in the healthcare industry, which benefit not only the students, but also the communities they will serve,” said William Hawthorne, Macy’s Inc., senior-vice president of Diversity Strategies.

Scholarship recipient Wen Mai Wong learned first-hand the importance of connecting culturally with patients as a young volunteer at her local hospital.

“I quickly realized how I could impact someone’s life through simple things such as refilling prescriptions, transporting patients or through a simple conversation,” said Wong, a sophomore at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, who aspires to be a physician investigator.

Studies show that patients who receive culturally-sensitive care from doctors of the same background are more satisfied and engaged in their treatment.

Chantel Underwood, one of 16 recipients of the 2014 Go Red Multicultural Scholarship and a senior at the Nazareth College of Rochester, New York, said having more diverse healthcare professionals would give patients an opportunity to see more relatable healthcare staff.

If patients see those who look similar to themselves, they will feel more comfortable and will lead to better health results, she said.

Yet, while African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans comprise more than 26 percent of the U.S. population, they represent just 6 percent of practicing physicians, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Additionally, of the 17,364 medical school graduates in 2011, 659 were Hispanic women (3.8 percent); 719 were black women (4.1 percent); and 1,918 where Asian women (11 percent).

The disparity also exists among U.S. medical school faculty: 60 percent are Caucasian, 13 percent are Asian; 4 percent are Hispanic; and 2.9 percent are African-American. The gap is even greater among higher-ranking faculty, according to the AAMC.

Furthermore, only 35 percent of women and 3 percent of African-Americans are participants in cardiovascular research trials. Yet, 43 percent of coronary artery disease patients are women and 11 percent are African-Americans.

Breaking cultural and language barriers are crucial because African-Americans, Hispanics and other ethnic groups are at higher risk for heart disease and experience worse health outcomes than Caucasians.

Earlier this year,  Rose Marie Robertson, AHA chief science officer, told a Food and Drug Administration panel that studies of drugs and medical devices don’t always report what effects these treatments may have on women and minorities.

“Sex, race and ethnicity and age play an important role in how heart disease, stroke and other forms of cardiovascular disease affect us,” Robertson said. “These same factors can cause prescription drugs and medical devices to work differently in women and men, minorities and older people. Yet despite this understanding, women, minorities and the elderly continue to be underrepresented in medical research studies.”