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CommonSpirit Health and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science partner to diversify and grow nursing workforce

Partnership will help historically Black medical school expand capacity to train more nurses

LOS ANGELES, CA – Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU), one of the nation’s four historically Black medical schools, and CommonSpirit Health, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit health systems, are responding to the national nursing shortage through a new partnership that will grow and diversify the nursing workforce.

“Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we predicted a nursing shortage due to the retiring nursing workforce and the care needs of our aging population,” said Kathy Sanford, D.B.A., R.N., Chief Nursing Officer at CommonSpirit. “Nursing schools simply don’t have the capacity to train nurses fast enough to replace those leaving the profession. As one of the nation’s largest employers of nurses, we knew we needed to be part of the solution.”

A 2021 American Association of Colleges of Nursing study found that, although interest in nursing programs is strong, 80,521 qualified applications were not accepted at schools of nursing due primarily to a shortage of clinical sites, faculty and resource constraints. The partnership will expand access to quality education and training by adding faculty and resources that help CDU, one of the nation’s leading educators of Black and other underrepresented minority nurses, grow its enrollment.

“In addition to clinical excellence, our students are focused on social justice and health equity for underserved populations in our surrounding communities in South Los Angeles and around the world who are affected by health disparities,” said David M. Carlisle, M.D., Ph.D., President and

Chief Executive Officer at CDU. “Expanding our program helps increase their impact and the likelihood that diverse patients have access to a provider who looks like them.”

Studies show that having access to a provider with shared lived experience helps improve trust and outcomes, yet only 22.2% of Black adults reported being of the same race as their health care provider compared to 73.8% of White adults.

“In our Southern California Division alone, we employ 10,000 nurses that care for over a million people every year,” said Julie J. Sprengel, President and CEO of CommonSpirit’s Southern California Division. “Together with Charles R. Drew, we’re helping to remove systemic barriers and create a more diverse and dynamic workforce that reflects the communities we serve.”

In addition to expanding capacity at CDU, the partnership seeks to drive early interest in nursing careers among students from under-resourced or underrepresented groups. CommonSpirit and CDU will establish mentorship programs for diverse high school students and build relationships with pre-college educators and guidance counselors to help ensure that students know their options and the prerequisite coursework necessary for a career in nursing.

“As one of the nation’s leading providers of Medicaid services, this partnership is an extension of CommonSpirit’s larger commitment to increasing culturally competent health care providers,” said Sprengel.

CommonSpirit is expanding access to careers in health care through its academic partnerships with Baylor College of Medicine, Creighton University, and the Morehouse School of Medicine. Together with the Morehouse School of Medicine, CommonSpirit has launched the More in Common Alliance, a 10-year, $100 million initiative to help address the lack of representation among health care providers. In addition to growing medical education programs, CommonSpirit has established scholarships to help remove barriers to pursuing a career in health care, includinG a program at Creighton University that will provide 100 full-tuition scholarships to underrepresented students of color and $3 million awarded to diverse health care professionals through the CommonSpirit Equity Impact Scholarship.


About Dignity Health - Southern California Division
Dignity Health’s Southern California Division includes eighteen hospitals with hundreds of outpatient services, from premier ambulatory surgery centers to advanced imaging centers, from primary and specialty care to comprehensive home health care across Central California, Central Coast, and Southern California —all with one common goal: to provide compassionate, high-quality health care in a safe and healing environment. Learn more at

About CommonSpirit Health

CommonSpirit Health is a nonprofit, Catholic health system dedicated to advancing health for all people. It was created in February 2019 by Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health. With its national office in Chicago and a team of over 150,000 employees and 25,000 physicians and advanced practice clinicians, CommonSpirit operates 140 hospitals and more than 1,500 care sites across 21 states. In FY 2021, CommonSpirit had revenues of $33.3 billion and provided $5.1 billion in charity care, community benefit, and unreimbursed government programs. Learn more at

About Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Sciences
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, located in South Los Angeles, offers nearly 20 graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs in medicine and healthcare. The University is recognized by the State of California as a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and is a federally designated Historically Black Graduate Institution (HBGI). Ranked as the #2 school in America for student and faculty diversity and the only historically black university west of Texas, CDU has been repeatedly cited as a top school in the nation for its graduates’ early career salaries and for providing high-income careers for previously low-income students. Visit for more information about Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

Publish date: 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022