UAB Health System has donated $25,000 to establish the John Lewis Health Equity Program Support Fund. The gift, in honor of the Alabama native and civil rights hero, supports the UAB Academy for Addressing Health Disparities Through Health Care Leadership.

The Academy, housed in the School of Health ProfessionsDepartment of Health Services Administration, is a summer enrichment program for undergraduate students aimed at reducing health disparities through the development of diverse, inclusive health care leaders. The students who attend identify as Black, Latinx, Native American or multi-cultural; are from rural, urban, and other underserved communities; and are the first in their families to attend college or graduate school.

“As part of our commitment to social equity we wanted to recognize John Lewis, an Alabama native, who’s life personified social equity and racial equality,” said Will Ferniany, Ph.D., CEO, UAB Health System and the UAB/SVHS Alliance. “The purpose and goals of The Academy reflect what John Lewis strived for and I can think of no better way for a Health System to honor his legacy.”

The immediate goal of the program is to increase the diversity of students entering graduate degree programs and better positioning them to help fight health disparities in Alabama and the U.S. The selected students, who will be called UAB John Lewis Health Equity Scholars, will also be provided assistance with preparation of graduate school application materials and knowledge about the wide array of career opportunities including health care leadership, health policy, health informatics, health care quality and safety, public health, and more.

The Academy, which was created in 2017, also delivers direct exposure and access to leaders, organizations, and communities for first-hand lessons about the intersection of social determinants and health outcomes. The ultimate goal is to inspire the students so that they may work to get in “good trouble” and improve disparities through policy, organizational practice and leadership. 

“We are grateful for this generous support of the Academy and I believe it is a fitting tribute to Representative Lewis and his legacy for Alabama and the nation,” said Christy Harris Lemak, Ph.D., chair, Department of Health Services Administration. “The support fund will enable us to improve the Academy and enhance our ability to develop inclusive leaders for the future.”

Representative John Lewis, who passed away on July 17, 2020, was born in 1940 to sharecroppers near Troy, Alabama. He was a legendary civil rights leader who participated in numerous historical moments including the “Bloody Sunday” march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965. He served 17 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing a district in the Atlanta area, and was called the “Conscience of Congress” by his colleagues.