Four HBCU medical schools receive $6M in vaccine effort

Bloomberg Philanthropies and its Greenwood Initiative make another huge donation to help those in underserved communities, this time through mobile vaccination units.
By: | April 13, 2021
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS/FRED ZWICKY

Four medical schools at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) have helped administer more than 100,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses from mobile units within their urban communities – Nashville, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

Despite all of those efforts, a lack of access and distrust continue to work against the initiative to protect the most vulnerable.

Bloomberg Philanthropies is hoping to improve those outcomes. On Tuesday, its Greenwood Initiative announced it was giving a total of $6 million to the four medical schools – Meharry Medical College, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science – to upgrade their mobile facilities, boost supplies and complete that last mile to reach those in need.

“COVID-19 has been devastating to the health and economic wellbeing of many Black families – and right now, increasing equitable access to vaccines is one way we can serve the needs of those who need it most,” said Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and former mayor of New York City. “Bloomberg Philanthropies is glad to expand our partnership with America’s four historically Black medical schools as they ramp up their mobile operations and ensure that more people get their shots quickly.”

The massive donation piggybacks on $100 million given by Bloomberg through its Greenwood Initiative to the four medical schools back in September to improve outcomes for students, lessen debt burden and boost wealth within communities of color. The goal of the current donation: simply to safeguard the underserved.

How the universities will use the donations

For Charles Drew University in Los Angeles, the gift is transformational. It has helped facilitate more than 50,000 vaccines this year with the aid of community partners, but the challenges have been great. Each day, it says it has 50-100 people on its waitlists. It says the gift from Bloomberg will mean the deployment of two new mobile units that will serve neighborhoods and homeless populations in areas that have not had easy access to vaccination sites.

“On behalf of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, and most important, the thousands of low-income people of color this award will enable us to reach with additional mobile health units, I’d like to express our deep appreciation to Bloomberg Philanthropies,” said CDU President and CEO, Dr. David M. Carlisle. “Together with last year’s Bloomberg Philanthropies grant to help reduce medical school debt for our students, this award will greatly help us improve access to health care in our most vulnerable, under-resourced communities. Thank you again.”

Meharry Medical College’s mobile unit in Nashville has helped vaccinate close to 3,500 individuals. But with additional funding, it will now target senior housing and Black churches in more rural areas and significantly increase the number of vaccines it can give to those often left behind in America’s complex healthcare system.

“Black Americans and our nation’s medically underserved are fighting two pandemics – COVID-19 and racial inequality,” said Dr. James Hildreth, President and CEO of Meharry Medical College. “Minority communities have historically suffered from medical mistreatment and lack of access to quality health care but are now expected to trust a system that has neglected them for decades. As leaders in the healthcare community, it is our imperative to break this cycle and establish trust throughout our communities. Our deepened relationship with Bloomberg Philanthropies will continue to bring awareness to these systemic issues and provide the protection and care our communities deserve.”

The struggle to get vaccine appointments has hit every corner of the U.S. – from the poorest to the most affluent communities – but it has been especially for those in underserved areas who lack even basic resources to get them. Howard University’s on-site clinic and mobile unit, which has dispensed thousands of vaccine doses over the past four months, will utilize part of the donation from Bloomberg to open up a call center for those looking to book appointments.

“We have already vaccinated more than 25,000 people locally, but there are still many more who have struggled to access the vaccine and continue to be at greater risk,” said Howard University President Dr. Wayne Frederick. By helping fund our mobile unit, Bloomberg will enable us to vaccinate more of the Black community, a critical step in mitigating the effects of a devastating virus that has disproportionately affected African-American individuals.”

With the gift, Morehouse School of Medicine will be increasing its efforts (it has given more than 5,000 vaccine doses since December) specifically in the majority Black areas of southwest and southeast Atlanta, where internet access and transportation can be luxuries.

“This pandemic has pulled the curtain down on the glaring socio-economic and health inequities that make black and brown populations vulnerable to illness and death from COVID-19,” said Morehouse School of Medicine President and Dean Valerie Montgomery Rice. “Morehouse School of Medicine is committed to health equity and advancing public health, and we have done work in this space for more than 40 years. We are immensely grateful for this gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative, which will allow us to increase our vaccination initiatives and reach vulnerable populations that still struggle with vaccine accessibility.”