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The Greenwood Initiative

In January 2019, Mike Bloomberg traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma to announce that the city had won Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Public Art Challenge. The winning proposal honored the neighborhood of Greenwood – once known as Black Wall Street, and the site of one of America’s worst tragedies: The 1921 Tulsa Race massacre. While there, he was moved by the story of how a predominantly Black neighborhood had become one of the country’s most prosperous communities – and was appalled and angered to know that its destruction at the hands of a racist mob had been whitewashed from history books.

In 2020, during his campaign for president of the United States, Mike announced an ambitious plan to accelerate the pace of wealth accumulation for Black individuals and families and address decades of underinvestment in Black communities. In remembrance of the hundreds killed in Greenwood, and in recognition of how racism has prevented Black families from building wealth, he called the plan The Greenwood Initiative and returned to Tulsa to lay out its proposals in a speech.

We have since carried the plan’s objectives over to Bloomberg Philanthropies, where we’re supporting and working with partners and institutions that have a proven track record of increasing economic and social mobility to fulfill Greenwood’s mission of reducing wealth disparities in Black communities.

The initiative’s first major investment was an historic $100 million gift to America’s four historically Black medical schools which underscored the connection between Black health and wealth, and was expanded with support for mobile COVID-19 vaccine units administered by the schools to ensure equitable access within their local communities. It also includes $150 million to endow the Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative at the Johns Hopkins University to fuel diversity in STEM fields.

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Providing Debt Relief to Medical Students at America’s Four Historically Black Medical Schools

In September 2020, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced The Greenwood Initiative’s first major investment, an historic, $100 million gift to America’s four historically Black medical schools: Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN, Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, CA. Bloomberg Philanthropies’ gift to the medical schools will allow them to provide debt relief up to $100,000 to approximately 800 medical student who are currently enrolled and receiving financial aid over the next four years.

This is the largest-ever individual philanthropic gift received by these medical schools, and it helps to address the connection between Black health and wealth, the dearth of Black doctors in America, and the disproportionate financial burden Black medical students face.

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Easing the debt burden of medical students to help increase the number of Black doctors in the U.S.

Enabling students to choose what and where they practice medicine based on passion, not a paycheck

Chronic illness and poor health can impact an individual’s ability to work and build wealth. On average, Black Americans are more likely to die at every stage of life than white people – and that troubling trend has continued during this pandemic, with Black people suffering the highest death rates from COVID-19.

Due to a number of factors, Black patients overall have better health outcomes when they are treated by Black doctors. However, while the population of the United States is 13% Black – only 5% of all practicing medical doctors are Black. Black doctors are also more likely to treat minority patients and practice in medically underserved communities, which often lack access to quality care in comparison to predominantly white communities.

 

Increasing COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts to Ensure Equitable Access within Black Communities

In April 2021, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced support to expand mobile COVID-19 vaccine unit operations run by the nation’s four historically Black medical schools – Meharry Medical College, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science – to ensure equitable access to vaccines in their communities of Nashville, TN, Washington, DC, Atlanta, GA, and Los Angeles, CA.

These schools have spent decades building trusted relationships in their communities and mobile clinics have historically improved access to care for the medically underserved. With a clear disparity between white and Black vaccine rates across the United States, the schools’ mobile units reach the most vulnerable and work with trusted partners, such as churches and senior centers, to set up temporary vaccination sites. This support will provide mobile medical unit upgrades, paid staffing for the units, medical supplies, and increase outreach to the community to help each institution expand vaccine access within Black communities and to significantly increase their weekly vaccination rates.

Fueling Diversity in STEM Fields

The Vivien Thomas Scholars Initiative was launched at the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) to address historic underrepresentation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, and prepare a new, more diverse generation of researchers and scholars to assume leadership roles in tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges. Bloomberg Philanthropies is endowing this effort to create additional pathways for students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) to pursue and receive PhDs in STEM fields.

Studies show that STEM PhD programs do not reflect the broad diversity of talent and perspectives that other fields of study have cultivated, nor have they effectively recruited scholars matriculating from diverse undergraduate institutions. This gift will provide permanent funding to add a sustained cohort of approximately 100 new slots for diverse PhD students in JHU’s more than 30 STEM programs. The initiative will engage in active outreach to applicants matriculating from HBCU and MSI institutions – encompassing more than 450 colleges and universities in the United States.

The PhD students recruited through this program will be known as the Vivien Thomas Scholars. Thomas was a Black surgical laboratory supervisor best known for his work to develop a cardiac surgery technique to treat “blue baby syndrome” (Blalock-Taussig shunt) at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1940s – a life-saving advance for which he did not receive credit for decades. Despite being forced to drop out of the Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial College, an HBCU in Nashville, during the Great Depression, Thomas spent his career as a pioneering research and surgical assistant.

 

Top photo: Howard University College of Medicine student Micah Brown is one of the many future doctors who will have had their futures changed by a $100 million commitment to the United States’ four historically Black medical schools.