Sentara Healthcare announced Thursday that it has awarded a $4 million grant to Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University to help develop a regional School of Public Health.
The funding is part of a $10 million community investment - the Sentara Healthier Communities Fund - which will be split into three areas of focus over a two-year period to reduce health disparities and bolster health sciences programs in Hampton Roads.
ODU will work with Norfolk State University to develop a School of Public Health. Additionally, Sentara will invest up to $3 million to support collaboration among ODU, Eastern Virginia Medical School and NSU as they address public health and health inequities in underserved communities.
"We are grateful for this investment, which will go a long way toward helping Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University strengthen our existing health sciences infrastructure and ensure our programs are more closely aligned with other health-care partners in the region," ODU President John R. Broderick said. "Old Dominion University is proud to work alongside Sentara, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters and Norfolk State University to tackle health inequities and improve social determinants of health in Hampton Roads and across the commonwealth."
ODU produces the largest number of health sciences graduates in the region, as well as the greatest percentage who stay in Hampton Roads to provide health care, while helping diversify the workforce as a whole.
In addition, Old Dominion produces the second largest percentage of STEM-H graduates among Virginia's doctoral institutions. ODU also enrolls more African Americans than any other state-supported four-year institution in Virginia, which will contribute to diversifying the region's health care workforce.
The final piece of the Sentara Healthier Communities Fund will be $3 million in grants to community organizations and partners in regions of Hampton Roads that Sentara Healthcare serves but are beyond the immediate footprint of ODU, NSU or EVMS. The intent for this funding is to make public health and health equity improvement grants in cities such as Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg and Suffolk to address public health and health inequities in underserved communities in these localities.
"We can only do so much to improve the health and well-being of our community inside the walls of our facilities," said Howard P. Kern, president and CEO of Sentara Healthcare. "In order to drive lasting change, we must work together to extend our impact beyond our walls to the environment in which people live, work and learn. Sentara is proud to collaborate with Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University, Eastern Virginia Medical School and community partners to tackle these pressing issues."