In 2020, Brown’s Health Equity Scholars (HES) program launched by offering up to five, full-tuition MPH scholarships to alums of Brown’s long-time partner, Tougaloo College, a historically Black college in Mississippi. The program was created after the racial unrest and protests that followed the killing of George Floyd, and as the pandemic exposed deep racial disparities in health systems and outcomes. The aim of the HES program is to increase public health representation from historically underrepresented groups; in addition to full tuition support, the Scholars receive enhanced mentorship and leadership training to complement Brown’s MPH curriculum.
The following year, the donor-supported Health Equity Scholars program grew to include applicants with undergraduate degrees from any historically Black college or university (HBCU). The incoming 2021 class included twelve students representing seven HBCUs.
“The program’s expansion is a direct response to the need to change the face of public health leadership to better reflect the make-up of our communities,” said Jai-Me Potter-Rutledge MHA, assistant dean of diversity, equity and inclusion in the School of Public Health.
Building on the MPH’s Health Equity Scholars program, the School launched the NextGen Scholars program and welcomed the first cohort in the fall of 2022. Designed to shape the next generation of scholars and professionals in biostatistics, the program provides full financial support for students from HBCUs to pursue a Master’s degree in biostatistics at Brown.
For 2022, thanks to an increase in philanthropic support, the Health Equity Scholars program applicant pool was broadened further to include graduates of Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) as well as qualified Rhode Islanders. This fall, the School of Public Health welcomed 19 scholars from HBCUs, HSIs, and Rhode Island natives/residents, all with a demonstrated commitment to addressing health disparities in their public health research and practice.
The growth in scholarships to support Master’s training reflects the School of Public Health’s commitment to expanding inclusion, said Rosenny Taveras, Health Equity Scholars program director. “These programs have the power to expand equity and inclusion, not only for the students in our graduate programs,” she said, “but in the fields of data science and public health themselves.”