Meharry Medical College, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, and the University of Memphis have announced a historic collaboration the conglomerate said would diversify health care and advance health care education.
“It’s a game-changer,” Dr. James Hildreth, the president of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, said during a Zoom news conference on December 17.
“We will work together to diversify the healthcare provider pipeline and advance health care education.”
The institutions plan to create training and research for medical students of color, hoping they will grow the number of primary care doctors across the state.
Initial plans include offering rotations for third-and-fourth-year students at Meharry and Church Health in Memphis.
The institutions will recruit students of color to pursue pre-medical undergraduate degrees at the University of Memphis.
They would have preferred access to medical school and biomedical sciences graduate programs at Meharry.
Methodist has committed to providing clinical training rotations and residencies in its hospitals.
Besides increasing the number of physicians of color, the partnership expects to create research collaborations between Meharry, Methodist, and the University of Memphis.
A clinical affiliation with Church Health, which serves the underinsured in Memphis, plans to provide educational and health care benefits to the community.
“We are delighted for this historic opportunity to work alongside these legacy institutions in the Memphis region to provide meaningful experiences for our students and care for those who need it most,” Dr. Hildreth said.
“There is a critical need throughout our country for a pipeline of Black talent within medicine. Now more than ever, the Black community needs greater access to preventive care and to providers they trust,” he said.
“This partnership with Methodist and the University of Memphis will support our ongoing efforts to diversify students’ training and educational experiences, so they are fully prepared to serve.”
Meharry officials said they’re committed to collaborations that help Black health care professionals directly impact health disparities, address social determinants of health, and improve health for minority communities across Tennessee.
“This partnership allows MLH to expand on our commitment of providing exceptional training opportunities for the next generation of physicians, nurses, and medical professionals,” Michael Ugwueke, president/CEO of Methodist Le Bonheur, offered.
The partnership comes at a critical time in health care, particularly in the Mid-South where patients face many health challenges, Ugwueke said.
“Leveraging the expertise of Methodist, Meharry, and the University of Memphis will allow us to implement innovative care models in community outreach, health education and research to meet the needs of the patients we are privileged to serve,” Ugwueke said.
According to a release issued just before the news conference, because Church Health has residents at Baptist Memorial Health Care, Meharry students will have access to medical training at three Memphis clinical settings: Methodist Le Bonheur, Church Health and Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis.
“This is a truly wonderful thing for Memphis,” said Dr. Scott Morris, head of Church Health.
“Memphis is a Black city. We ought to be fully engaged in training young Black students to become Black physicians, and by God, we’re going to do it.”
Dr. Morris said conversations between the partners began less than three months ago.
“To get where we are now would take five years,” he said, noting it could be a pattern for the nation in developing more physicians of color.
“This is a very big initiative,” Dr. Morris said.
“It will take years to come to fruition, but at that this point, it’s not just talking. I truly believe it is going to happen.”
Further, the University of Memphis “is very excited for the opportunity to partner with such tremendous education and industry leaders in healthcare,” the school’s president, M. David Rudd, said.
“This will enhance our relationship with Methodist Le Bonheur, a highly respected organization in our community that has worked with and supported the U of M for years.
“It will begin a new and promising relationship with Meharry Medical College, an institution we view as one of the very best nationally in training students to effectively identify health disparities and treat patients, especially those in underserved communities.”