DC’s two HBCUs, The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and Howard University have partnered to create more homegrown healthcare workers, according to WTOP News.
The HBCUs have created a new program called, PHIT4DC. It allows anyone from high schoolers to working healthcare professionals to enroll in public health informatics and technology courses.
“The program is offered in several pathways,” said Dr. Mary Awuonda, director of Howard’s Telepharmacy Center. “We have a no-wrong-door model for entry. So, we can make sure we have an impact in D.C.”
“Health care now is in the community,” Awuonda said. “The lack of direct engagement is what led to a lot of the poor outcomes Wards 7 and 8 saw over the pandemic. Frontline workers naturally know that a connection is important and know how to inform them.”
The program is geared towards students from Wards 7 and 8, who will focus their training on patients and residents in that area. They will train healthcare providers to understand a patient’s lived experiences and help those residents navigate healthcare information systems, according to Awuonda.
“When we’re talking about our communities in D.C., especially our underrepresented communities, we know that we need people we can trust,” Charletta Washington, PHIT4DC program director at UDC said the program said. “So, if and when the next public health emergency comes along, we know that we have a workforce that’s ready to engage the communities that are sometimes left out of the conversation.”