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Sinai Health System and DePaul come together to address health inequities

researchers on a Zoom call
The Sinai Urban Health Institute-DePaul University Research Fellows meet remotely each week to discuss progress on their manuscripts as part of the Unequal Cities project, a comprehensive research initiative to study city-level mortality rates and racial inequities among the 30 most populous U.S. cities. Meeting via Zoom in mid-August were, clockwise from top left: Maureen Benjamins, senior research fellow, SUHI; Joanna Buscemi, assistant professor of psychology, DePaul; Fereshteh Ghahramani, assistant professor of information systems and computer security, DePaul; Daniel Schober, assistant professor of public health, DePaul; Karyn Stewart, assistant professor of sociology, DePaul; and Nazia Saiyed, epidemiologist, SUHI. Not pictured, Julia Lippert, assistant professor of health sciences, DePaul. (Image courtesy of Joanna Buscemi)
Sinai Health System and DePaul University are joining forces to address critical health inequities in Chicago through the creation of a community-driven, applied research institute. Sinai Health System’s research arm, Sinai Urban Health Institute and DePaul will collaborate on education, research projects, and development and implementation of clinical and community programs aimed at addressing social and health equity challenges.

“Sinai and DePaul both share more than a century of commitment to serving Chicago,” says Karen Teitelbaum, president and CEO of Sinai Health System. “We have already been working together with DePaul to train the next generation of health providers. This collaboration is an extension of our shared mission to understand the needs of our communities and develop people and programs that will offer real solutions to address inequity and move the needle for social justice.”

A memorandum of understanding signed recently by Sinai and DePaul is intended to foster more opportunities for the institutions to work together. The agreement includes providing shared education programs for students and researchers, jointly pursuing research and grant opportunities, sharing expertise and data, and promoting sustainable community-academic partnerships aimed at addressing health inequities.

“There is a true intersection of mission and service for DePaul to work hand-in-hand with a safety net health system like Sinai," says DePaul President A. Gabriel Esteban. "This new endeavor is closely tied to our roots, in particular to the charitable service by St. Louise de Marillac working with St. Vincent de Paul in caring for the sick and poor in 17th century France. This collaboration will enable DePaul to expand our health sciences portfolio and provide students and faculty with unmatched opportunities for practical, hands-on work that puts them in a position to identify and propose solutions to health inequities in Chicago and beyond.”

Creation of a joint research institute

SUHI and DePaul will co-create a community-driven research institute to conduct solutions-focused research. The institute will engage with community members, leaders and organizations in research and action to assess and address health and social inequities. Part of the institute’s joint mission will be to develop and apply cutting-edge collective impact evaluation tools and practices to determine the most effective solutions. 

The joint institute will be overseen by the SUHI/DePaul Advisory Committee consisting of SUHI research staff members and DePaul faculty or staff members. Donna Badowski, associate director of the RN to MS program in the School of Nursing; Elissa Foster, graduate program director of health communication in the College of Communication; and John Mazzeo, director of the master's of public health program, are the three faculty members representing DePaul on the advisory committee. 

“I am looking forward to working with the SUHI/DePaul Advisory Committee to take this partnership to the next level and create new opportunities for our faculty, students and staff across the campuses to work on cutting-edge, impactful research projects in order to develop solutions addressing social and health equity problems,” says Daniela Stan Raicu, DePaul’s associate provost for research.

Expanding the DePaul-SUHI collaboration

The work will bring together expertise from SUHI researchers and DePaul faculty, as well as provide opportunities for students to take research and data off the shelf and put it to work in the community. 

“DePaul faculty and students will have the chance to participate in research and job-shadowing clinical internships and other programs that will provide practical experiences with public health research and service,” says Salma Ghanem, interim provost. “This latest collaboration with SUHI will build on the work being done in a fellowship program established earlier this year in which four DePaul faculty members began new studies in the Unequal Cities project on racial inequities in mortality in our country’s largest cities.”

DePaul also will bring faculty expertise and new research opportunities to SUHI, and each institution will share applicable public health data and online resources, as well as technical expertise. They also will participate in joint research and grant applications.

“We’re excited to expand our educational and research capacities, better leverage grant opportunities and also provide front-line clinical experiences for students. Working together, we can really bring research to life and use data to develop solutions that will truly impact people’s health and lives,” says Helen Margellos-Anast, president of Sinai Urban Health Institute.

Sinai Health System, a Chicago-based private, not-for-profit organization, is comprised of seven member organizations: Mount Sinai Hospital, Holy Cross Hospital, Sinai Children’s Hospital, Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital, Sinai Medical Group, Sinai Community Institute and Sinai Urban Health Institute. The system has over 800 physicians on its hospital medical staffs, 654 licensed beds, 100,000+ annual emergency department patient visits and eight physician residency training programs.