Meharry SACS receives $400,000 to develop leaders to eliminate health disparities

addressing health disparities

Direct Relief has awarded Meharry School of Applied Computational Sciences $400,000 to develop diverse leaders with the expertise to eliminate heath disparities. Their support will fund a comprehensive effort including scholarship support, internships and hiring a biomedical data science faculty member with expertise in health disparities research.

The grant will provide partial funding for 10 African American students enrolling into the fall 2023 M.S. Biomedical Data Science cohort. Those students will also receive funding to attend national health disparities conferences and for a 10-week internship program that will provide research and exposure to issues affecting health disparities.

Fortune Mhlanga

“Thanks to Direct Relief’s support, we are creating a program that will be one of the first in the nation and the first at a Black academic medical center,” says Fortune S. Mhlanga, Ph.D., dean of Meharry SACS. “We will educate new leaders who will use artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze data and create software to help ensure communities of color have access to exceptional health care.”

Meharry SACS will also use the Direct Relief funding to hire a biomedical data science faculty member who is an expert in health disparities to research, educate and mentor students in the M.S. Biomedical Data Science program.

“This will be an important hire and will ensure the success of this program and its role as a national model,” says Dean Mhlanga. “This faculty member will be critical in training the future leaders in the innovative use of technology and data science to provide critical data required to eliminate health disparities.” 

The grant is from Direct Relief’s Fund for Health Equity, which mobilizes financial resources for organizations focused on non-clinical interventions that affect a person’s health. Commonly known as the social determinants of health, these factors include an individual’s physical, social, cultural, and economic environment.

Meharry SACS is among 71 awardees. The Direct Relief grants, which total $22.7 million and will be disbursed over two years, were awarded with funding from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the AbbVie Foundation, and Eli Lilly and Co. to support underserved communities across the United States.

“We are pleased to bolster the indispensable work of Meharry School of Applied Computational Sciences and other grassroots organizations striving to reduce disparities and increase equity in vulnerable populations across the United States,” said Dr. Byron Scott, MD, MBA, co-chair of the Fund for Health Equity and board director of Direct Relief and chair of its Medical Advisory Council. “It is a privilege to promote and support these organizations that are deeply connected to the communities they serve, know best what their patients and communities need, and the most effective means of providing it.”

The organizations in the latest round of funding were chosen for their efforts to enhance workforce diversification, reduce health disparities, and expand innovative models of care. A full list of winners can be found here.

The awardees were selected by the Fund for Health Equity’s Advisory Council, which includes the following members:

  • Co-Chair Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, 18th U.S. Surgeon General of the United States, Founder Bayou Clinic, Inc.
  • Co-Chair Byron Scott, MD, MBA, board director of Direct Relief and chair of its Medical Advisory Council
  • Martha Dawson, DNP, MSN, RN, FACHE, president and CEO president of the National Black Nurses Association, associate professor the University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Jane Delgado, Ph.D., MS, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health
  • Gail Small, JD, head chief woman, a citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe

Since the start of the Fund in 2021, more than $42.5 million has been provided to support 149 organizations across the U.S.

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