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Office of Community

Committed to Community

Darlene Hightower, Associate Vice President , Office of Community Engagement and PracticeRush University Medical Center has been a fixture on the West Side of Chicago for more than 175 years, providing quality care to patients and exemplary training for those in the medical profession. In the last 25 years, through programs like the Rush Community Service Initiative Program, the Science and Math Education Network and school-based health centers, Rush has extended its reach into the community bringing that same level of excellence. Today, our goal is to build upon this rich history and invest even more deeply into the communities we serve.

In 2016, Rush conducted a Community Health Needs Assessment and learned that despite our significant investments in surrounding neighborhoods, the life expectancy gap between affluent and under resourced communities on the West Side was up to 16 years. This health outcome is simply unacceptable when we live in a resource-rich city. Rush’s response is to meet the challenge of health inequity head on by crafting community-based partnerships and programs that improve health. We are “doubling down” on our commitment to close the life expectancy gap and to address the underlying social issues that are the root causes. This means that our community-based programs will be strategic, asset-based and data-driven.

Finally, we recognize that this work cannot be done by Rush alone. To be successful, we need the support, ideas, and enthusiasm of community residents, organizations and other partners. Together, we will build bridges toward quality health and wellness on Chicago’s West Side.

Committed to Community,
Darlene Oliver Hightower
Associate Vice President , Office of Community Engagement and Practice

Our mission

The mission of the Office of Community Engagement is to enable and support Rush University Medical Center in fulfilling its commitment to improve the quality of life within Rush’s diverse neighboring communities through initiatives and partnerships.

These are some of the ways we achieve this mission:

  • Assessing the health needs of our community and developing strategies to address these needs
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of Rush programs in meeting the needs of our community
  • Reporting and communicating Rush’s community engagement efforts to its internal and external communities
  • Developing and strengthening effective community partnerships
  • Coordinating community-based experiences for students at Rush to enhance their ability to care for diverse populations
  • Serving Students and families by providing quality, accessible health care within Rush’s school-based health centers and the Adolescent Family Center

Meet the team

Darlene Oliver Hightower, JD
Associate Vice President , Office of Community Engagement and Practice

Linda Fitzgerald
Senior Business Manager

LaDawne Jenkins
Project Manager

Kimberly Johnson
Administrative Assistant

Sharon Gates
Senior Director, Rush Community Service Initiative Programs

Sally Lemke
Director, Community Health Clinics

Rukiya Curvey Johnson
Director, Rush Education and Career Hub

Christopher Nolan
Community Benefit and Relations Manager

Julia Bassett
Community Benefit Specialist

Robin Pratts
Manager, Community Health and Faith Initiatives & The Health Legacy Program for Women

Learn More