Blue Shield of California will invest $7 million over five years for a new fellowship program at UC Berkeley School of Public Health to support graduate students from underrepresented communities. The program, which aims to increase diversity among health professionals, will train fellows to leverage data and analytics to improve public health and advance health equity.
The first cohort of 20 students in the Blue Shield of California Health Equity Fellowship program will come to Berkeley in August 2022. Over the next five years, the program will support approximately 100 master’s and doctoral candidates, funding students from a diverse range of communities—including African American, Native American, Latinx, and Pacific Islander backgrounds—that are underrepresented in the healthcare industry in California, particularly in senior leadership positions.
The nonprofit health plan also will provide fellows with real-world professional experiences—including internships and access to mentors—to address complex healthcare challenges. Blue Shield anticipates hiring many of the fellows upon graduation.
“The health inequities that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic have shown us the need to build healthcare policies and practices in a culturally sensitive way,” said D.D. Johnice, vice president of the Health Transformation Lab at Blue Shield of California. “Having members of underrepresented communities on the teams that design and build new health solutions, as well as lead innovative healthcare organizations, is critical to transforming health care. We cannot achieve health equity without growing and supporting diverse, top talent.”
Berkeley Public Health Dean Michael C. Lu said, “This fellowship will create a pipeline of underrepresented talent in public health and offer wrap-around support—including tutoring and mentoring, projects and internships, cohort experience and leadership development—to assure their success. I am grateful to Blue Shield of California for their partnership in helping us build a better and stronger, more diverse and inclusive public health system.”
In addition to financial support, the fellowship offers students a robust set of resources and opportunities, including:
Early outreach and recruitment to prospective fellows
Tutoring and career services
Leadership and professional development workshops
Educational and mental health counseling
Social activities and networking opportunities with fellowship alumni
Opportunities to apply biostatistics and advanced analytics expertise to real business challenges
Internships at Blue Shield of California and access to mentors at the health plan
“At Blue Shield, we want to create a healthcare system that’s worthy of all our family and friends, and sustainably affordable. Ensuring that care is equitable is a big part of that, and one way we can help make that happen is employing people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, who can use analytics and relate to the needs of our members,” said Paul Markovich, president and CEO, Blue Shield of California. “I’m excited about this program because it creates a path to do just that, and I look forward to welcoming the first fellows this fall.”