Partnership Addresses Physician Shortage, Health Inequities in State
Mar 6, 2024
Sutter Health
A Black female medical school graduate stands outdoors on a sunny day in her cap and gown, holding her rolled degree, and smiles for the camera. She also wears a stethoscope.

Sutter Health, Charles R. Drew University partner to address physician shortage and health inequities across California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sutter Health, one of the nation’s largest integrated health care systems, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU), the only federally-designated Historically Black institution west of Texas, proudly announce a new, long-term collaboration to expand access to a more inclusive and equitable care experience in California. The effort kicks off with the launch of two significant initiatives. The first is one of the largest scholarship programs in CDU’s history, designed to widen pathways for diverse physicians. The second is the creation of the Health Equity Alliance for Research & Evaluation (HEARE) to serve as an incubator lab to accelerate health equity research into clinical practice.

“This unique collaboration marks a significant step toward building a more equitable health care system in California,” said Dr. David M. Carlisle, president and CEO of Charles R. Drew University. “Today’s announcement is just the beginning of our work to clear paths for medical education, enhanced clinical care, robust research and improved community health.”

CDU opened its new, nationally accredited medical school in 2023, making it one of only four Historically Black Medical Schools in America. Sutter’s $7.5 million initial investment will provide five full-tuition scholarships across five cohorts (2024-2028), totaling 25 scholarships. Additionally, it will fund HEARE over the next five years to help accelerate interventions that address root causes of inequities. Sutter Health and CDU will also explore additional opportunities to broaden the partnership and train more physicians with future initiatives. This investment is part of Sutter’s broader commitment to address California’s growing physician shortage and persistent health inequities by enhancing access to culturally competent care for under-represented populations.

The 10-year commitment also includes academic and experiential learning opportunities across Sutter Health’s system, including its Institute for Advancing Health Equity, which serves to help ensure all patients experience optimal health outcomes across one of the most geographically and demographically diverse areas in the country.

Warner Thomas, president and CEO at Sutter Health, emphasizing the significance of the collaboration, stated: “We do not train enough physicians in California given the current and projected shortage we’re facing. In fact, we train far fewer physicians per capita than most every other state in the country. Sutter is making it our goal to tackle that, which is why we also are making significant investments to expand our graduate medical education programs, and why this partnership with Charles R. Drew University is so important to us. Our two organizations will leverage more than 150 years of combined experience to create tangible solutions that reduce disparities and elevate care — starting with this scholarship launch.”

CDU’s inaugural class of 60 medical students reflects the diversity of California — nearly a quarter of the cohort is Latino, and half are Black, speaking a myriad of languages and practicing several different religions. With several landmark studies (JAMA, PubMed) demonstrating that culturally competent care leads to better health outcomes, it is critical to create pathways for those from underserved, low-income and rural communities to pursue health care careers.

Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, dean and professor of medicine at CDU, highlights the program’s impact: “Over 80% of CDU students are from communities of color, many of whom return to practice and provide care in underserved communities after graduation. This scholarship is a game-changer for our aspiring physicians — and for the patients they’ll go on to serve.”

Sutter Health has already helped remove barriers for those who want to enter the health care profession. It is on pace to become the largest community-based health care training institution in Northern California. Sutter Health is developing and implementing new graduate medical education programs, expanding its footprint to train and graduate approximately 1,000 residents and fellows by 2030.

“Access to safe, high-quality and equitable care is a challenge for too many in California, and particularly for communities of color,” said Leon Clark, vice president and chief academic affairs officer at Sutter Health. “This transformative work — which combines the unique strengths of two leading healthcare organizations — will address this challenge head on by tackling the physician shortage and health disparities.”

The launch of the scholarship program and HEARE are the start of an impactful alliance between Sutter Health and CDU with additional efforts planned in the years ahead related to developing physician pathways, health equity and graduate medical education.

Recent Articles