By Alexis Clark

NASHVILLE, TN — Tennessee State University and HCA Healthcare are continuing their partnership in a major way. In a recent joint press conference, the Nashville-based health system gifted TSU $1.5 million to provide scholarships for aspiring students wanting to becoming medical doctors and technology leaders, and for education initiatives.  

The HCA, TriStar Health donation will provide scholarship opportunities for 12 students enrolled in the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr., Institute and three students majoring in computer science. The goal is to help build the pipeline for African American healthcare professionals and technology experts. The breakdown of the gift includes $1.4 million for Levi Watkins scholars pursuing a degree in the TSU accelerated medical program, while $100,000 will go Computer Science’s HCA Healthcare ITG Scholars. 

“We applaud and thank HCA Healthcare for this generous gift and continued support of TSU, and our talented students,” TSU President Glenda Glover said during the event. “This investment in our students helps them to become the future doctors and health technology leaders they aspire to be. HCA is making their dreams a reality.” 

Mitch Edgeworth, division president for HCA Healthcare TriStar Division, said their cooperation is proud to be able to invest in the university.  

“Rooted in our mission to care for and improve human life, we are committed to providing resources and opportunities for future healthcare leaders to grow, learn and make a difference through this partnership,” Edgeworth said. “TriStar Health is proud to be part of HCA Healthcare and supports this incredible investment that will establish a strong and diverse pipeline of future physicians and healthcare ITG leaders in our community.” 

Class of 2025 Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute cohort students said this opportunity will help them succeed in becoming future physicians, dentist, and healthcare professionals to bridge the healthcare gap and provide for underserved communities in need. 

“I hope to reduce the racial inequalities in the medical field as well as fixing the patient and physician trust between the African American community and the physician,” said Sierra smith, a biology major whose goal is to become an anesthesiologist. 

Donnell Shaw, an aspiring dermatologist majoring in biology, said he looks forward to creating a skin care line for African Americans. 

“I hope to accomplish owning my own private practice and making my own Black skin care line. I’ve always loved helping people and giving back.” 

The gift is part of the organization’s larger commitment to give $10 million over three years to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions.  

Currently, there are 117 new students in the computer science program. In addition to the scholarships for computer science students, HCA will also provide seven ITG staff members to serve as adjunct faculty for the fall semester. 

Christopher Jeff, a junior majoring in computer science, said he felt elated to know that corporations like HCA want more students with a passion in Computer Science to achieve their long-term goals. Jeff aspires to become a software engineer. 

“It means that there are places like HCA that want nothing but the best for people that attend HBCUs and to see them succeed,” Jeff said, noting that he is grateful for the scholarship opportunities and additional faculty members provided by HCA. 

TSU and HCA Healthcare have a long-standing partnership. In 2015, the corporation donated $1 million to fund internship opportunities and support the growth of the Health Information Management program. Sherri Neal, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer of HCA Healthcare, said gestures as such, are building a more diverse talent pipeline of healthcare. 

“Increasing the diversity of our healthcare workforce is vital to providing more equitable, culturally competent care to our communities,” Neal stated. 

HCA Healthcare Scholars and HCA Healthcare ITG Scholars will be provided with hands-on shadowing opportunities, mentors, seminars, leadership sessions, career guidance and internship opportunities. 

Please visit www.tnstate.edu/biology/special_programs.aspx to find out more about the TSU accelerated medical program, and https://www.tnstate.edu/computer_science/degrees/accelerated.aspx  computer science.