Penn gets $125M to train nurse practitioners to care for underserved communities

The program comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified persisting inequities in access to quality health care

By: - February 15, 2022 10:14 am

The University of Pennsylvania received a $125 million gift to create the Leonard A. Lauder Community Care Nurse Practitioner Program (University of Pennsylvania photo/The Philadelphia Tribune).

By Ayana Jones

PHILADELPHIA — The University of Pennsylvania is creating a tuition-free program to prepare and deploy a diverse group of nursing practitioners to provide health care in underserved communities across the U.S.

The program is being established by a $125 million gift from Penn alumnus Leonard A. Lauder, chairman emeritus of The Estée Lauder Companies.

“This is the most timely and consequential gift not only for our university but for our country. It is unprecedented in its potential to address America’s most critical need of providing primary health care to all who currently lack it by investing in nurses,” former Penn President Amy Gutmann said.

“Growing the number of nurse practitioners who are prepared and committed to working in underserved areas is the most practical and inspiring way to ensuring a healthier country. I am grateful and honored that Leonard would make this gift to Penn Nursing and thrilled to know that it will have an immediate impact that will last far into the future.”

The Leonard A. Lauder Community Care Nurse Practitioner Program comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the nation’s acute shortage of primary care providers and persisting inequities in access to quality health care.

“Now more than ever, the country needs greater and more equitable access to quality primary care — and highly-skilled nurse practitioners are the key to making that happen,” Lauder said. “The program will ensure that more Americans receive the essential health care services that everyone deserves, and I’m so pleased to be working with Penn Nursing on this initiative. I look forward to welcoming our first class of future nurse practitioners this fall. I know their expertise will be matched only by their commitment to serving our communities.”

Nurse practitioners deliver primary care to people of all ages, such as treating common illnesses, managing chronic conditions and providing preventive care that helps patients stay healthy.

For students to become a Leonard A. Lauder Community Care Nurse Practitioner Fellow, they must already be full-time admitted students in select Penn Nursing Primary Care programs.

Penn Nursing will select 10 fellows to begin classes this fall, growing the program enrollment through 2026 when it will reach its annual target enrollment of 40 fellows, continuing in perpetuity. By 2027, the program will have enrolled 140 nurse practitioner students.

All program participants will enter the workforce free of graduate school debt, receiving student aid to cover their tuition and fees and thereby eliminating any potential financial barriers for nurses and others who wish to enroll. Fellows with greater financial need will also receive stipends to help with living expenses.

The fellows will complete at least 50% of their clinical education at community partner sites and/or comparable sites that provide direct patient care. Every fellow will be expected to commit to practice or service in an underserved community for two years after graduation.

“Penn Nursing has a long history of advancing science, promoting equity, practice excellence, and preparing leaders. That’s why Mr. Lauder’s gift is so meaningful,” Penn Nursing Dean Antonia Villarruel said in a statement.

“The synergy between Penn Nursing and the program will improve the health of underserved patients and families, by uniquely preparing primary care nurse practitioners, who will work with them in their communities,” Villarruel  said. “The sustained investment in the education and careers of primary care nurse practitioners and communities is unprecedented.”

Ayana Jones is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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