FAU Launches Health Equity Nursing Scholars Program

HENS, Health Equity Nursing Scholars Program, Nursing, Nursing Students, Health Equity

The first-of-its-kind Health Equity Nursing Scholars (HENS) Program is designed to improve health equity in communities nationwide.

By gisele galoustian | 9/15/2022

Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing recently launched a new scholarship program through the support of Florida Blue Foundation and the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation. The first-of-its-kind Health Equity Nursing Scholars (HENS) Program is designed to improve health equity in communities nationwide.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the data show that racial and ethnic minority groups throughout the U.S. experience higher rates of illness and death across a wide range of health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, asthma, and heart disease, when compared to their white counterparts. In addition, the life expectancy of non-Hispanic/black Americans is four years lower than that of white Americans. The COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact among racial and ethnic minority populations is another stark example of these enduring health disparities.

Through a three-pronged approach, FAU’s College of Nursing and Florida Blue Foundation are poised to shift the status quo in underserved health care communities in South Florida and beyond. HENS will support a cohort of eight diverse, exemplary Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree students and two Master of Science in Nursing students each year. Through scholarships and programming, Florida Blue Foundation is providing student resources to help create opportunities and remove barriers for students and community members.

Co-directors of the HENS program at FAU are the College of Nursing’s Christine Toledo, Ph.D., APRN, an assistant professor and a bilingual registered nurse and certified nurse practitioner; and Nadine Phillips, an instructor and a registered nurse who has worked in various capacities for Broward Health for more than 23 years.

“Our HENS scholars will intentionally learn about the social determinants of health, how to ensure health equity, and how to apply integrative health care, both in primary care and behavioral health integration, and understand the importance of cross-sector collaboration and inter-professional practice,” said Toledo.

HENS scholarship recipients will receive $5,000 per year for up to four years and will serve as student representatives on the college’s Inclusivity, Diversity, and Equity Taskforce. Each student will complete clinical rotations at local facilities including the FAU and Northwest Community Health Alliance's Community Health Center (FAU/NCHA CHC), operated by the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing.

The FAU/NCHA CHC provides comprehensive primary, behavioral health and preventive care to patients of all ages in Palm Beach County’s underserved and rural areas. The HENS curricula and onsite immersion clinical training will allow the FAU/NCHA CHC to serve more than 1,700 underserved patients over the course of six months.

HENS scholars also will be trained and mentored by faculty mentors and preceptors; attend monthly seminars on health equity topics with other health equity peers; and develop a quality improvement or evidence-based practice project.

“We are extremely grateful to Florida Blue Foundation and the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation for supporting outstanding nursing students and the vital services the College of Nursing provides for underserved communities in South Florida,” said Safiya George, Ph.D., dean, FAU Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing.  “The ‘Future of Nursing 2020-2030’ report calls for the entire nursing industry, including health care institutions, organizations, government agencies and nursing programs to support the vital role of nurses in helping to achieve health equity. The Health Equity Nursing Scholars program will make an immediate community impact in the areas of primary and pediatric care, chronic disease management, telehealth, and behavioral health and will transform the approach to addressing health inequities to ensure patients receive optimal care.”

According to the CDC, black men are 70 percent more likely to die from a stroke as compared to non-Hispanic white men. Likely due to under-diagnosis, millennials from majority black and Hispanic communities have lower diagnosis rates of major depression, 31 and 55 percent lower respectively, when compared to white communities. Black adults are 60 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes; and black mothers have three times higher mortality and two times higher morbidity rates than white mothers.