WASHINGTON, July 23, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Indian College Fund (the College Fund) announced that $100,000 in scholarships have been awarded to 18 academically excellent students in partnership with United Health Foundation's Diverse Scholars Initiative, which has provided nearly $2 million in scholarships this year through partnerships with organizations like the College Fund. The Diverse Scholars Initiative aims to increase diversity in the health care workforce by supporting promising future health professionals. The scholarships were announced at the sixth annual Diverse Scholars Forum, which brings more than 100 United Health Foundation scholarship recipients to Washington, D.C., July 23-26 to celebrate and inspire scholars to work toward strengthening the nation's health care system. This year's event gives these future health care professionals the opportunity to hear from members of Congress, representatives from academic and research institutions, health care providers and health and wellness companies. Scholarship recipients were all members of the Navajo nation and include: Danelle Cooper, global health, Arizona State University; Sheridan Cowboy, pre-physical therapy, University of New Mexico-Albuquerque; Patricia Dixon, dental hygiene, San Juan College; Lesley Eldridge, biology/psychology/chemistry, University of New Mexico-Albuquerque; Tierra Jishie, pre-physical therapy and exercise science, Fort Lewis College; Jason Shirley, biology, University of New Mexico-Albuquerque; Lavalerie Tsinnajinnie, nursing, Northern Arizona University; Miranda Yellowhorse, public health, Northern Arizona University; Cadijah Allen, public health, Diné College; Mycollete Anderson, public health, Diné College; Carlene Black, public health, Diné College; DAyn DeGroat, nursing, Navajo Technical University; Martina Martinez, nursing, Navajo Technical University; Lance McCabe, pre-professional nursing, Navajo Technical University; Katrina Morgan, nursing, Navajo Technical University; Wayne Nez, public health, Diné College; Taleighia Shortey, public health, Diné College; and Fallon Todacheenie Yazzie, nursing, Navajo Technical University. "We are proud of the achievements of our scholarship recipients, who have shown not only academic excellence but the desire to serve their communities in their careers in health care," said Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund. "We are grateful to work with the American Indian College Fund to support these amazing students as they work to achieve their goals and improve our health care system," said Kate Rubin, president of United Health Foundation. "The Diverse Scholars Initiative helps these scholars fund their education and gives them an opportunity to learn from one another and interact with experts who are leading the way in improving patient care." According to the American Medical Association and Association of American Medical Colleges, the number of multicultural health professionals is disproportionately low when compared to the overall population. For example, about 15 percent of the U.S. population is Hispanic/Latino; however, only 5 percent of physicians and 4 percent of registered nurses are Hispanic/Latino. About 12 percent of the population is African American, yet only 6 percent of physicians and 5 percent of registered nurses are African American.