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$225,000 Packers Impact Grant Helps Launch Health Equity Scholars Program

The Kern Institute for the Transformation of Medical Education at Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a $225,000 matching grant from the Green Bay Packers Foundation to support the MCW Health Equity Scholars Program (HESP).

The Packers Foundation announced the grant, along with gifts to seven other organizations from around the state totaling $1.5 million, during a news conference. Faculty from the Kern Institute were in attendance.

“These funds will help care for our most vulnerable neighbors and ensure kids, families and individuals in our communities have what they need to learn, grow and thrive,” Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said in a news release.

Some grants are matching grants, including the award to Kern Institute, which requires an equal amount to be raised from other organizations to secure the donation.

“The growing shortage of physicians in Wisconsin, particularly in underserved areas of the state, is predicted to worsen existing health and health care disparities,” said Adina Luba Kalet, MD, MPH, Stephen and Shelagh Roell Endowed Chair, Professor and Director of the Kern Institute. “We are truly grateful to have the support of the Green Bay Packers Foundation as we address this critical issue.

The Health Equity Scholars Program (HESP) is a four-year health equity training track for medical students enrolled at MCW-Milwaukee designed to address the urgent need for physicians from groups underrepresented in medicine.

“One of the major obstacles to increasing the diversity of the medical profession is the substantial cost of medical training,” added Dr. Kalet. “The Health Equity Scholars Program will help MCW accomplish several goals by removing the cost barrier. But even more so, we will empower these students to thrive, and advance health equity in our county and state.”

The inaugural class of HESP will begin their training in July 2024. The program is in the process of recruiting applicants who have been admitted to MCW’s School of Medicine (SOM) and have a profound interest in addressing healthcare disparities. Scholars will receive a full scholarship, including tuition, housing and living costs.

The program is designed to be immersive. Throughout the four years, these students will have the opportunity to be part of a Learning Community as residents of the apartments in the ThriveOn King building. Additionally, HESP will provide comprehensive trauma stewardship training, which is the process of learning to care for self while leaning to care for others.

“Place-based education is aimed at providing medical students the knowledge, skills, relationships, and attitudes required to live and practice successfully in a community as physicians,” Dr. Kalet said. “The end goal of this program is a cohort of physicians who are competent, caring clinicians and citizens of Milwaukee.”

The Packers grant will support funding for housing and living costs for two academic years. Total fundraising for HESP is $8.5 million, including four years of full tuition and housing and living costs for a total of 15 scholars over six years.

It is anticipated that HESP will be fully integrated into the SOM, enrolling cohorts of five to 10 students per year. Student outcomes, program evaluation, and the ability to raise additional philanthropic funding will guide this process.

The program was developed by a team of MCW faculty, staff and community constituents, including the following members:

  • Cassie Ferguson, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, section of emergency medicine; associate director, Kern Institute
  • Mike Levas, MD, professor of pediatrics, emergency medicine section, vice chair for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Department of Pediatrics
  • Devarati Syam, PhD, program manager, Kern Institute
  • Genyne Edwards, JD, founder and partner, P3 Development Group
  • Joshua Parish, NRP, MSc, MPH, assistant chief — EMS, Training, and Education, Milwaukee Fire Department
  • Cordelia Elaiho, MPH, MCW medical student
  • Egal Warsame, MCW medical student
  • Omar Syed, MD, resident, MCW Department of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences
  • Suma Thareja, PhD, MCW Medical Science Training Program student

$225,000 Packers Impact Grant helps launch Health Equity Scholars Program
Photo credit: Green Bay Packers