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CSU receives $5.5 million from Cleveland Foundation for Partnership for Urban Health

Largest-ever gift to NEOMED-CSU Partnership supports the education of urban primary health care professionals

Cleveland State University has received a $5.5 million grant from the Cleveland Foundation to support the NEOMED-CSU Partnership for Urban Health, an initiative that recruits and trains medical students who reflect the socio-economic background and cultural makeup of their communities to address and eliminate health disparities. The announcement was made June 25 at a community event at the new Center for Innovation in Medical Professions.

This is the third Cleveland Foundation grant in support of the Partnership for Urban Health, which addresses the current and future health care needs in Greater Cleveland. In 2010, the foundation provided a one-year planning grant of $250,000 followed by a $1.5 million start-up grant in 2011 to bring total support to $7.25 million.

“This is the largest-ever gift in support of the Partnership and we are fortunate to have visionary collaborators in NEOMED and the Cleveland Foundation that have enabled us to collectively address an urgent community and workforce need. Our city’s residents will greatly benefit by having a new generation of diverse primary care providers who have trained in neighborhoods that have been historically underserved. This is a new model for training an interdisciplinary primary care workforce,” said CSU President Ronald M. Berkman.

There are two entry points for students in the program. At the undergraduate level, CSU students are admitted to the joint program at CSU and promoted to NEOMED upon satisfactory completion of promotion requirements. The second entry point is a post-baccalaureate option for students with college degrees in other areas. Each pathway introduces students to urban health issues and the sociological aspects of urban studies.

Currently, there are 105 students engaged in the six-year program (67 in the CSU phase and 38 students in the NEOMED phase). Of this cohort, 19 percent reflect underrepresented minorities as compared to a student population of 5 percent when the Partnership began. The Partnership has achieved an 85 percent persistence/retention rate for all students and 83 percent persistence/retention rate for students from underrepresented minority groups. The goal of the Partnership is to graduate 175 medical students in the next five years.

“The shortage of primary care physicians who practice in urban areas threatens our most underserved and vulnerable populations, leading to preventable illness and, in some cases, death,” said Cleveland Foundation President and CEO Ronn Richard. “The innovative NEOMED-CSU partnership thoughtfully addresses the primary care challenge as it provides the necessary academic support to students who may not otherwise receive an opportunity to attend and successfully complete medical school. These institutions are creating a new workforce of compassionate caregivers who we hope will dedicate their careers to the health and prosperity of our residents and our community.”

“We have a great track record with our inter-professional, community-based health professions education. To date, approximately 50 percent of our students return to practice in Northeast Ohio,” said Jay A. Gershen, D.D.S, Ph.D., president of NEOMED. “But the shortage of primary care physicians in our underserved communities is at a critical crossroads. As such, meaningful collaborations with partners such as CSU and the Cleveland Foundation are a must to give hope and empowerment in incentivizing students in their academic and career development, and making a difference in the health status, as well as the economic development, of their communities.”

The Partnership takes place at NEOMED and CSU. The Urban Primary Care Track enables medical students to build upon their understanding of urban issues shaping society and health throughout their six years of basic science and medical courses that include a four-year pairing with Federally Qualified Health Centers and health care system providers based in a medically underserved Cleveland neighborhood. An actively engaged 14-member Community Advisory Board, co-chaired by Dr. Edgar B Jackson, Jr., Executive in Residence at CSU, and former U.S. Representative Louis Stokes, has provided assistance in the program’s start-up phase.

“It is very uplifting for our region’s priorities to be addressed from within through collaboration of several of our most important institutions. This partnership will continue to enhance Cleveland’s reputation for excellence in health care and it will open doors for individuals who want to be part of this next generation of neighborhood-focused physicians,” said Rep. Stokes.