EVMS is planning a Center for Health Equity (CHE) as a way to highlight and address the serious health inequities that plague the people of Southeastern Virginia.

 “As a health sciences university built by the community, for the community, EVMS has embraced a responsibility to address the health disparities and inequities affecting the Hampton Roads region,” says Richard V. Homan, MD, President, Provost and Dean of the School of Medicine. “It has been part of the institution’s mission since its founding and continues today.” (In the photo above, members of the Community Advisory Board are introduced to the EVMS Board of Visitors.)

The CHE is an outgrowth of a “listening series” created by the EVMS Board of Visitors to gain a better sense of the scope of the problem, says Theresa Emory, MD, Rector of the EVMS Board.

“Over the last several months, we have heard from hundreds of people who share stories of the often-heartbreaking health challenges they face,” Dr. Emory says. “The Center for Health Equity will serve as a regional focal point to help us confront the many stark health disparities that are far too prevalent in our region. This concerted approach is of vital importance to the health and well-being of everyone in our community.”

Phillip Jones, a member of the EVMS Community Advisory Board and a consultant with the firm Bain & Company, called the center “an important first step in addressing health disparities that have plagued the lives of disenfranchised communities. COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on these disparities, and I am confident that Hampton Roads will be at the vanguard in addressing these issues.”

Already, the center has gained the financial support of two local hospital systems that share the school’s concern about these rampant health disparities.

Reese Jackson, President and CEO of Chesapeake Regional Healthcare (CRH), said EVMS and CRH share a similar history as well as a community-oriented mission.

“It is an honor to support the formation of the CHE,” Jackson said. “Chesapeake Regional Medical Center is one of the largest, if not the largest, provider of obstetrical services in Hampton Roads and has a strong orientation and commitment to women’s health as well as a very notable Cancer Center and positive rapport with Urology of Virginia, Virginia Oncology Associates and the Riverside Health System.”

Jackson said CRH has teamed with EVMS students for the health system’s hospital-initiated vaccine sites. “With such manifest passion to unite in a common cause, I can easily foresee us working alongside and supporting one another to improve the health of the community we serve.”

Riverside Health System also has joined the effort.

“We think this is a significant opportunity to improve the overall health of our population,”  says Michael Dacey, MD, President and Chief Operating Officer at Riverside. “There is no doubt there are discrepancies between groups, and this kind of approach is a wonderful way to address those issues in a thoughtful way.”

For decades, health disparities have been persistent across Eastern Virginia and these disparities impact people of all ages.  Some specific areas of concern include the following:

  • Breast Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Maternal Infant Mortality
  • Diabetes

The CHE will help promote health equity through coordination of the existing and new EVMS programs/initiatives to include data-driven research, education of EVMS students, faculty and the community, and provision of programs that focus on education, along with community-based care and engagement.

The CHE will organize the resources of EVMS under one umbrella and utilize a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach through research, education and community care/engagement to promote equity in health and healthcare for the socially at-risk populations in the region.

Over the years, EVMS has developed several community-oriented programs and initiatives that provide services, conduct research, and coordinate and convene resources directly for the benefit of the communities we serve, with the overall goal of positively impacting the health of our community.  Some examples include:

  • Foscue Brock Institute for Community and Global Health (Brock Institute)
  • Center for Maternal and Infant Health Equity and Advocacy
  • EVMS Consortium for Infant and Child Health (CINCH)
  • Center for Pediatric Health Outcomes and Research
  • EVMS-Sentara Health Analytics and Discovery Science Institute (HADSI)
  • Minus 9to5
  • HOPES Clinic
  • Leroy Canoles Jr. Cancer
  • Strelitz Diabetes Center
  • Office of Education – Community Engaged Learning (CEL) programs

 The new center will be located within the EVMS Brock Institute.