Swedish, Meharry Medical College team up to diversify health care in Puget Sound region

December 2, 2021 Swedish Communications

Partnership is among the first diversity initiatives designed to attract and retain Black physicians and medical professionals in the Pacific Northwest

Swedish Health Services (SHS) and Meharry Medical College (MMC), one of the nation’s oldest and largest historically Black academic health science center, have teamed up to create a groundbreaking partnership aimed at reducing health disparities among people of color and building a more diverse and inclusive healthcare environment in the Pacific Northwest.

“We are proud to be partnering with one of the nation’s historic and prestigious Black medical colleges and honored to play a role in educating and mentoring the next generation of talented surgeons, physicians and specialists,” says R. Guy Hudson, M.D. MBA, regional chief executive officer at Swedish. “This partnership also underscores Swedish’s commitments to do our part to eliminate systemic barriers that have plagued communities of color by attracting and retaining Black and African American medical professionals to Swedish and the region.” 

According to a recent report from Haverford College, Black Americans make up only 5% of the nation’s physicians. It’s a statistic with real, life-and-death consequences. This inequity plays out daily in health care settings across the country. Most glaringly, data shows that Black and other people of color suffer disproportionately from chronic illness and disease and have worse health outcomes. Simply put, the nation doesn’t have enough Black doctors and Swedish wants to help change that.

“Diversifying our health care workforce is pivotal to ensuring better health care outcomes and access for all. It starts by providing quality training, resources and support for the next generation of Black medical students,” said Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, President and CEO of Meharry Medical College. “Our partnership with Swedish Health Services will allow our students to gain real-world clinical experience and make a difference, especially in underrepresented and underserved communities.” 

The program is a partnership with the Swedish General Surgery Residency Program and officially launched in Sept. 2021. The first cohort, comprised of third-year students, is set to begin Jan. 2022. Third-year students will move through surgical rotations as they prepare for residency and will receive assistance with transportation, housing and living expenses. The Diversity Sub-Internship Scholarship is open to all fourth-year students from U.S. medical schools and racial minorities historically underrepresented in surgery. There are plans to expand rotations to other specialty areas at Swedish, including obstetrics and gynecology, family medicine and primary care.

The goal of the Swedish/Meharry program is to nurture a new generation of skilled doctors who will bring a much-needed lens of diversity and equity to medical care. The collaboration also serves as an important step in Swedish’s work to reduce health disparities by expanding culturally competent care for people of color that is focused on health and well-being, as well as patient experience.

“Talking about this just was not enough anymore,” says Marc Horton, M.D., residency program director and system executive medical director of surgical services, surgical chair, at Swedish. “This program gives Black medical students the opportunity to learn about Swedish and is a first, but very important step to addressing the disparities—racial and financial—that have for too long affected Black physicians and patients. As a Swedish physician I’m excited to work with this new generation of doctors and be a part of this change in healthcare.”

“This initiative speaks to the core of our diversity, equity and inclusion work at Swedish,” says Mardia Shands, M.A., SPHR, SHRM-SCP, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Swedish. “We are dismantling the systemic barriers that keep people of color from accessing healthcare and following their professional aspirations. These young doctors will not only contribute to the health and wellness of our communities, but they will be also symbols of our ability to make change.” 


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