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By Tracy Carlson

January 12, 2021, Atlanta, Georgia – Two of the nation’s leading health organizations are responding to the dual pandemic of COVID-19 and racial injustice with a 10-year, $100 million partnership to develop and train more Black physicians, helping address the underlying causes of health disparities. 

Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), a historically Black medical school and one of America’s leading educators of primary care physicians, and CommonSpirit Health, one of the largest U.S. health systems with locations in 21 states from coast to coast, are creating a joint undergraduate and graduate medical education program to educate and train the next generation of culturally competent health clinicians and researchers. 

A nonprofit, Catholic health system, CommonSpirit was created in February 2019 through the alignment of Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health. The system includes St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada, and Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California – both founded by the Adrian Dominican Sisters. 

“As legacy sponsors of Dignity Health and now, as a Participating Congregation with CommonSpirit, we are so proud of CommonSpirit’s partnership with Morehouse,” the General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters wrote in a letter to CommonSpirit Health CEO Lloyd Dean. “This initiative promises to have a major impact on positively addressing the critical underlying causes of racial health disparities. Given our growing resolve as Adrian Dominican Sisters to address racial inequities and white privilege, we are grateful to you and CommonSpirit for making this long-term commitment to lay a foundation for patients to have more access to Black clinicians, physicians, and health care providers across the nation.”
 
Morehouse School of Medicine President and Dean Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, explained that “of the 21,863 students entering medical school in 2019, only 1,626 were Black – and only 619 were Black males. This statistic is alarming for many reasons, not the least of which is the impact on patient care. Studies show that Black patients have better outcomes when treated by Black doctors.” 

MSM and CommonSpirit are uniquely positioned to impact health equity through education and training opportunities and improved access and care delivery. Of the 155 accredited medical schools in the United States, MSM and the other three historically Black medical schools produce the majority of the nation’s Black physicians. 

As one of the largest nonprofit health systems in the nation, CommonSpirit serves some of the most diverse communities in the country and cares for more Medicaid patients than any other health system in the United States. 

The partnership will help develop more Black and other minority physicians by ensuring that a minimum of 300 additional underrepresented providers complete their residency training annually and support a pipeline of students who will be recruited from communities that are historically short on healthcare providers.  

MSM and CommonSpirit will establish five new regional medical school campuses and graduate medical education programs in at least 10 markets in partnership with CommonSpirit healthcare facilities, to be announced in spring 2021.
 
“We are laying the foundation for patients to have more access to Black clinicians and for Black medical students and graduates to gain community-based experience that they need to be successful in their work,” said Lloyd H. Dean, President and CEO of CommonSpirit. “Our initiative also will create a pathway for healthcare organizations across the nation to follow and share our learnings, a vital part of our work.” 

The collaboration will extend to addressing cultural competency and developing research programs to impact illnesses that disproportionately affect minority and underserved communities. 

“We’re immediately leveraging our partnership to address health inequities magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic, as Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Dean said. “Together, we will foster a culturally competent system of care that includes testing, care delivery, and vaccine allocation, directed at the most vulnerable populations to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in racial and ethnic communities.” 

MSM and CommonSpirit will contribute $21 million in seed money in the first two years, with a goal of spearheading a 10-year, $100 million initiative that invites the support of individual donors, industry partners, and philanthropic organizations. 

“This partnership is the perfect combination of two healthcare organizations that are devoted to the creation and advancement of heath equity in underserved communities,” Dr. Montgomery Rice said. “Now, more than ever, we believe society needs a unique partnership like ours that can help show the way to reducing health disparities in vulnerable communities, and, in turn, make all communities stronger.” 

Promising their support and prayer for the success of the initiative, the General Council added that the partnership “aligns fully with the Mission and Vision of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. We are delighted, through our participation in CommonSpirit, to be a part of this extraordinary healing initiative.”

Members of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ General Council are Sisters Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress; Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor; Frances Nadolny, OP, Administrator and General Councilor; Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor; and Elise D. García, OP, General Councilor.


January 8, 2021, Adrian, MichiganThe General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters issued the following statement in response to President Donald Trump’s incitement of his followers to violence at the U.S. Capitol:

As leaders of a Catholic congregation of more than 500 Dominican Sisters whose lives are committed through public vows to following the Way of Jesus, our involvement in the political discourse of our nation has always been focused on advancing the common good of God’s people and planet through issue advocacy, aligned with our Gospel values. 

Today, with heavy hearts, we depart from our accustomed role of issue advocacy to take the unprecedented step of adding our voice, as religious leaders, to those of others in the civic life of our nation who call for the immediate removal of the sitting President of the United States.

The alarming, heart-sickening and treacherous insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 not only endangered our elected leaders and their staffs but also held hostage our democratic process of ratifying the election of the President of the United States. The attack on the Capitol left five persons dead and caused grave injury to others. Carried out by Confederate-flag waving white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and anti-Semitic extremists, among others, the riot was incited by President Donald J. Trump who exhorted his supporters at a rally near the White House to march to the Capitol, crying, “You will never take back our country with weakness.”  

Rev. Bryan N. Massingale, a Black Catholic priest and professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University, characterized the insurrection as “a racist attack on the nation’s capital” in a January 6 opinion piece in America bearing that title. He wrote:

We cannot feign surprise, because for years, the core of Mr. Trump’s appeal has been stoking white resentment at the changing face of America. What we saw today is a clear declaration that many white people would rather live in a white dictatorship than in a multiracial democracy. If democracy means sharing power with people of color, especially Black people, then they want no part of it. Today is the inevitable consequence of the nation’s tolerance of white racism.

The insurrectionists who subjected the Capitol and the nation to this harrowing assault must be sought out, apprehended and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And the President who incited this insurrection must be held accountable for his seditious acts. But, as Rev. Massingale added: 

… Trump is not solely responsible for this debacle. Here is where the wisdom of the Catholic moral tradition is achingly relevant. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that one shares in the evil of another “by omitting the counsel that would have hindered the wrongdoing” and by “silence, by not preventing, by not denouncing.”

After prayerful discernment, we feel compelled to call on our elected leaders – Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow and Representative Tim Walberg, in particular – to act to remove President Trump from office, as the constitution provides, preventing him, at once, from any further exercise of the fearsome powers he holds. 

Our nation must make clear to all present and future elected leaders, to our children and generations to come, and to the rest of the world that no person is above the law; that ours is a nation of liberty and justice for all, not only “for those who are white and angry,” as Rev. Massingale writes. Impunity must end.

We pray for the renewal of our democracy and its foundational nonpartisan values of freedom, equality, and justice for all. We pray that the deep love of family and friends we each hold in our hearts will enkindle a wider love of neighbor that stretches across all divides – political, social, racial – beckoning us to act for the common good of all God’s people.

Members of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ General Council are Sisters Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress; Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor; Frances Nadolny, OP, Administrator and General Councilor; Patricia Harvat, OP, General Councilor; and Elise D. García, OP, General Councilor. 


 

 

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