Old Dominion University has received nearly $400,000 through two programs recently established by Sentara Healthcare to support qualified students pursuing healthcare careers.

A check presentation ceremony was held April 12 at ODU’s Broderick Dining Commons. The ODU Educational Foundation received $300,000 through Sentara Scholars and $98,805 through Project CHOICE.

Sentara launched the programs in response to medical staff shortages plaguing the U.S. healthcare system. Through a nearly $4 million investment, Sentara is working to create a pipeline between young students and their desired healthcare careers.

At ODU, the Sentara Scholars money will go toward scholarships for students of demonstrated need who are enrolled in healthcare programs. Project CHOICE funding will support books, tuition, the MAPS (Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students) Club, entrance exams, prep courses and application fees.

Bonnie Van Lunen, dean of ODU’s College of Health Sciences, expressed gratitude for the Sentara Scholars grant.

"Sentara Healthcare is investing in the future of the region through this gift as our students will be able to focus their time on the important work they need to accomplish as they complete their degree programs,” she said. “The Sentara Scholars program will impact our community as well, as students will know how much they are supported within the Commonwealth of Virginia."

Suzanne Wright, interim dean of ODU’s School of Nursing, said: "Given the near-unprecedented shortages of nurses in and around Hampton Roads, the Sentara Scholars program has the potential to have a wide-range impact on the preparation of greater numbers of professional and advanced practice nurses who are competent, confident and practice-ready as they enter the workforce."

Regarding Project CHOICE, Associate Dean Joshua Wallach of ODU’s College of Sciences remarked: "ODU serves a diverse student population, and for various reasons many in this population are underrepresented in professional healthcare fields. The Project CHOICE grant from Sentara will help expand opportunities, break down barriers and provide support for many of our students to enter professional health programs.”

Sentara is investing more than $3 million in Sentara Scholars and more than $775,000 in Project CHOICE (Careers in Healthcare that provide Opportunities for Improvements in Community economics and Equity).

“Sentara Scholars and Project CHOICE are not just programs, but testaments to our commitment to building a stronger healthcare pipeline and advancing health equity through collaboration with educational institutions,” said Becky Sawyer, Sentara executive vice president and chief people officer. “By reducing the financial burden on students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, offering stronger mentorship and training opportunities, and removing barriers to higher-paying and more meaningful careers, we are investing in the future of healthcare and empowering the next generation of professionals.”

Sentara Scholars and Project CHOICE include Sentara-led educational programs, grants and opportunities for middle, high school and higher-education students. Many of these programs focus on attracting minorities and other underrepresented groups.

Pictured, from left: Daniel Genard, associate vice president for advancement, Old Dominion University; Suzanne Wright, interim dean of the School of Nursing, ODU; Austin Agho, provost and vice president for faculty affairs, ODU; Alex Askew, community relations coordinator, Sentara Healthcare; Bonnie Van Lunen, dean of the College of Health Sciences, ODU; Occasio Gee, human resources communications manager, Sentara; and Amanda Simpson, project coordinator, Sentara.