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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.
December 31, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – As has been said numerous times over the past nine months, 2020 has been an “unprecedented year” of chaos, challenges, and change as the world dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic and the United States faced systemic racism and a challenging presidential election. As we look forward to 2021 and a time of hope and restoration, here are the top 10 story themes for the Adrian Dominican Sisters in 2020, chosen by the Communications Department.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, the Adrian Dominican Sisters General Council set protocols to mitigate the spread of the virus: closing the Motherhouse to visitors and guests from March and eventually through the spring of 2021, enacting a shelter-in-place protocol for Sisters living in the Dominican Life Center and a moratorium on commercial Congregational travel, encouraging Co-workers who can to work from home, and beginning a regimen of testing resident Sisters and Co-workers.
Throughout the year, Sisters, Associates, and Co-workers adapted to this new life, continuing to live out the Mission to serve the needs of the times. Congregational meetings are held via Zoom. Sisters, Associates, and Co-workers sew masks for Co-workers in the DLC. A group of Sisters and Associates begin art projects to memorialize life during the pandemic and meet monthly via Zoom to share their artwork and their reflections. St. Luke N.E.W. Life Center offers drive-through food distribution for families in Flint, and Congregation-sponsored schools and literacy centers juggle in-person learning and virtual class time, as well as graduations and other special events. Sisters and Associates in the United States, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines work on the front lines (see pages 2-5 of the 2019-2020 Annual Report).
Finally, as the year comes to an end, hospitals founded by the Adrian Dominican Sisters – St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada and Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California – begin the work of vaccinating their employees, beginning with those who work directly with COVID-19 patients.
Even before public outcry resulting from the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Adrian Dominican Sisters sought to root out racism and white privilege and to stand with people of color. A group of Sisters celebrate Black History Month with other people of faith in Lenawee County, Michigan, at a special Black History unity rally. The General Council issues several statements in opposition to racism and racist deeds (see Statements section), and takes part in a local Black Lives Matter march in Adrian on behalf of numerous Sisters who were sheltering in place and unable to attend. Four sponsored institutions involved in education – Barry University, Siena Heights University, Regina Dominican High School, and Rosarian Academy – issue statements opposed to the racist system in the United States and take action to address racism in their schools and local communities. Sisters and Associates also work within their parishes and other ministry sites to educate people and to acknowledge and root out racism.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters General Council issues a number of statements:
on measures taken to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 (March 13);
in response to the killing of George Floyd (May 27);
affirming the call of other organizations for a Day of Mourning and Lament for more than 100,000 U.S. COVID-19 deaths (May 29);
affirming the National Black Sisters Conference statement on 21st Century Lynchings (June 3);
supporting the LCWR statement on the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative for immigrants who came to the United States as children (June 22);
in gratitude for the Lenawee County Health Department’s statement encouraging compliance with protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (October 6);
writing a letter in support of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in response to the alleged plot to kidnap her (October 9);
expressing joy at Pope Francis’ appointment of Archbishop Wilton Gregory as Cardinal (October 25); and
speaking on behalf of the plight of 545 migrant children still separated from their parents (October 28).
Sister Elise D. García, OP, General Councilor, on behalf of the Adrian Dominican Congregation, signs the Catholic Impact Investment Pledge, affirming the Congregation’s commitment to make investments “on behalf of the poor and vulnerable, and to promote human dignity, economic justice, and environmental stewardship.” The Adrian Dominican Congregation is one of 16 U.S.-based Congregations of Dominican Sisters to launch the Public Climate Solutions Fund initiative. The Sisters committed $46,650,000 to seed the Climate Solutions Fund, attracting $130 million in capital investments. Mercy Housing Northwest – a collaborative effort of communities of women religious in the Northwest, including the Edmonds Dominican Sisters, now merged with the Adrian Dominican Sisters – opens a new, 254-apartment affordable housing project. Adrian Dominican Sister Corinne Florek, OP, hearing that the Center for Women in Transition wanted to buy the former Collaborative Dominican Novitiate in St. Louis, puts the organization in touch with the Mercy Partnership Fund in St. Louis. The Fund granted the Center a low-interest loan to purchase the novitiate. Socially responsible investing such as the instances above has been the ministry for more than 40 years of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board.
Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), under the leadership of Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO, joins a coalition to make affordable housing a national priority. Celebrating 110 years of service and advocacy, CCUSA joins with the Felician Sisters of North America work together to establish the Francis Fund for Eviction Prevention to help people on the brink of homelessness. Sister Attracta Kelly, OP, Director of the Office of Immigration Assistance, offers to help young “Dreamers” apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protection. The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation offers numerous ways to be involved in social justice advocacy in areas such as immigration, the death penalty, nuclear disarmament, and climate change.
A number of Adrian Dominican Associates are welcomed through Rituals of Acceptance: Margaret Reyez on February 8, 2020, in St. Catherine Chapel and Teressa Conley, Holly Lyman, Natasha Mulroney, Donna Barnes Riggins, and Aimee Moran Yannis, in Henderson, Nevada, on March 2020; and Suzanne Sink in July 2020, at West Palm Beach, Florida. Welcomed through virtual Rituals of Acceptance were Associates Alison Altmeyer and Annemarie Kallenbach, July 29, 2020, and Diane Burgermeister and Noraleen Renauer, August 10, 2020. Associates look to the future during two virtual gatherings: Futuring Dominican Associate Life in August and Partners: Past, Present, and Future in November. Learn more about becoming an Adrian Dominican Associate.
Four women associated with the Adrian Dominican Sisters participate in NETWORK’s 2020 Nuns on the Bus virtual election campaign, encouraging voters to consider all aspects of a candidate’s stand, not just one issue. Sister Durstyne Farnan, OP, Dominican Representative at the United Nations, was one of the “nuns on the bus” who spoke about the issues she considers. One of the site visits was to St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center, founded by Sister Carol Weber, OP, and Sister Judy Blake, CSJ. In a dialogue on city versus rural issues in Michigan, Associate Joan Ebbitt and Co-worker Laura Negron-Terrones, Administrative Assistant for the Office of Immigration Assistance, spoke on the panel representing Adrian, Michigan. In a gesture of unity, Associate Deb Carter reaches out to opposing protesters on election day with a gesture of peace.
Sister Elise D. García, OP, General Councilor, becomes President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and takes the time to reflect on both religious life and leadership. Prioress Patricia Siemen, OP, reflects on the greater global perspective she gained during her three years as one of two delegates for the North America Constellation of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG). Adrian Dominican Sisters mark their Jubilee milestones of religious life in creative ways, and the Congregation honors 34 Jubilarians at a special Mass. To learn more about how Adrian Dominican Sisters experience religious life, read about the life stories of various Sisters and watch their videos. Learn more about becoming an Adrian Dominican Sister.
Weber Retreat and Conference Center, marking its 50th anniversary in 2020, offers virtual programs, workshops, and retreats. The Dominican Center: Spirituality for Mission, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, offers an internship program for spiritual directors, as well as spiritual programs for people of faith. The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Spirituality Committee holds a monthly series of virtual talks on different aspects of spirituality, including spiritual direction, St. Mary of Magdala as Patroness of the Dominican Order, and the spirit of Advent waiting during the pandemic. Sister Janet Schaeffler, OP, an author in the areas of religious education and adult faith formation, writes books on First Communion activities for families and the spirituality of aging, as well as her annual booklet of Advent reflections.
The Congregation continues its sustainability work through its permaculture site and a windmill installed on the Motherhouse grounds (see the Annual Report, page 27). Sister Corinne Sanders, Director of Sustainability, and Jared Aslakson, Permaculture Specialist, give an update on the sustainability efforts of the Congregation, based on its relationship to Earth. Adrian Dominican Sisters and Co-workers take the opportunity on the United Nations World Day of the Environment to reflect on creation and efforts to safeguard the environment. Father James Hug, SJ, Priest Chaplain, writes Catholic prayers, reflections, and other materials for the Season of Creation, an interfaith observance from September through October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.