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April 7, 2021, Washington, D.C. – Sister Donna Markham, OP, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, was one of eight faith leaders to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris on March 31, 2021, to discuss ways that they can collaborate on pressing issues.
Along with Sister Donna, three other faith leaders met in person with Vice President Harris in her formal reception room: Bishop Mary Anne Budde, Episcopal Bishop of Washington, D.C.; Rev. Walter Kim, President of the Evangelical Churches of the U.S.; and Bishop Leah Daughtry, Bishop of the Churches of the House of the Lord. Four other faith leaders participated via Zoom.
In her opening remarks, Vice President Harris thanked the faith leaders for all that they have done throughout their lives, but in particular during the dark times of the past year. “You all throughout this time … as you always do, have been a source of strength, a source of comfort, a source of counsel.” She also thanked the faith leaders for what they have done to meet the daily needs of people, such as housing the homeless and feeding the hungry.
After her opening remarks and the departure of the press, Vice President Harris and the faith leaders began a “candid conversation about how we can be helpful in mitigating vaccine hesitancy in communities of color and underserved communities,” Sister Donna said. They also discussed ways that churches and other faith-based organizations can provide vaccine sites.
“Altogether, we were with the Vice President for about an hour and we will be having follow-up meetings with her on issues such as the migrant situation and food security,” Sister Donna said. “I felt very honored to be invited to the table!”
In her work with Catholic Charities USA, Sister Donna leads a network of agencies throughout the United States that advocate for social justice and provide services for local people in need: from adoption and pregnancy care to housing, senior care, immigration and refugee services, food and nutrition, leadership development, and disaster relief.
Sister Donna, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation from 2004 to 2010, has been President of Catholic Charities USA since 2015. A clinical psychologist, she served as founding director of the Dominican Consultation Center in Detroit from 1980 to 1986 and, from 1993 to 2003, as President and CEO of the Southdown Institute, a residential treatment program based in Ontario, Canada, for priests and women and men religious dealing with addictions or other psychological issues.
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.