This post was originally published on Afro

By AFRO Staff

Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis and its U.S.-based foundation recently announced a 10-year collaboration with Coursera, the National Medical Association, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Morehouse School of Medicine and 26 additional HBCUs to create programs to combat health disparities and increase diversity and equity in health research and practice.

The participating institutions have pledged to co-develop programs aimed at improving minority access to high-quality education, technology, improved health outcomes, and promising jobs; increasing diversity in clinical trial participation and among clinical trial investigators; addressing inherent bias in the data standards used to diagnose and treat disease; and finding actionable solutions to environmental and climate issues that disproportionately affect health among communities of color.

“At Novartis, we envision a world with equity in health for all. Just as there are a multitude of factors and causes behind racial disparities in health and education, there is no single solution to this critical challenge. It will take the concerted, urgent action of diverse stakeholders across the public and private sectors,” said Dr. Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis.

As an initial step, the Novartis US Foundation plans to invest $20 million in scholarships, mentorships and research grants over the next 10 years to help create equitable access to high quality education and professional development for HBCU students in health-related fields. Administered by Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the program will train and prepare up to 1,200 students, providing three-year scholarships of $10,000 a year for up to 360 students at select HBCUs and medical schools.

According to 2019 data, while Blacks comprised 13.4% of the U.S. population, they only accounted for 6.2% of medical school graduates, 5% of practicing physicians, and an even smaller proportion of clinical trial investigators.

“Health equity is not only accessible healthcare for patients, but developing educational and professional opportunities to create a diverse pipeline of educators, clinicians and other professionals, as well as ensuring all are included in clinical studies,” said Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, President and CEO, Morehouse School of Medicine. “We know that real change starts here, when work is done to make a significant impact on representation and inclusion.”

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