Physician Residency Program Targets Health Inequity

Rush University, Esperanza launch Family Medicine program serving West, Southwest sides

Health Equity March 7, 2022
Rush University Building

Rush University is launching a new residency program aimed at curbing health inequities across the West and Southwest sides of Chicago.

The RUSH-Esperanza Family Medicine Residency, created in partnership with Esperanza Health Centers, will focus on equipping family medicine physicians with the skills needed to care for patients from historically marginalized communities affected most by health inequities. Esperanza is a nationally recognized Federally Qualified Health Center on the Southwest Side.

“We have all witnessed how a global pandemic has highlighted the inadequacies of our tiered health care system and how fragile the infrastructure of our health care system is, particularly for people without access to primary care,” said Deborah Edberg, MD, director of GME development for the Department of Family Medicine. “It is our hope that the RUSH-Esperanza Family Medicine Residency will inspire a new generation of dedicated physicians with a desire to be leaders in social justice and a commitment to providing optimal care for all patients, particularly those who are most vulnerable.”

The residency will work to achieve its mission through four important pillars:

  • Community innovation and clinical practice
  • Policy and leadership
  • Education
  • Research

“Both our institutions share a fundamental commitment to tackling health disparities in our communities through innovation and excellence and by demonstrating leadership in addressing the social determinants of health,” said Dan Fulwiler, president and CEO of Esperanza Health Centers. “Our family medicine residency is central to that effort. Residents will not only gain the skills, understanding and experience to become outstanding practitioners of family medicine, but will learn to become more knowledgeable and effective advocates for the patients and communities they serve.”

With these guiding principles, RUSH and Esperanza will be able to constructively combat the social and political determinants of health by supporting and creating a well-rounded program aimed at educating residents on how to best serve their surrounding communities. And it will instill a sense of commitment and dedication to becoming health care leaders in reform and innovation.  

“This residency is the result of a shared vision to eliminate health inequities stemming from decades of oppression coupled with a need to address a workforce shortage in primary care,” Edberg said. “We are so proud to offer a piece of the solution through this family medicine residency in Brighton Park, Chicago.”

"For the last several years, creating a residency program designed to confront health inequities across Chicago was among our highest priorities,” said Steven Rothschild, MD, chair of the Department of Family Medicine at RUSH. “Together with our partners at Esperanza, we are launching a residency that will not just train family physicians who are outstanding in preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases — but will also teach them the value of partnering with community members to improve social conditions in domains such as education, the environment, nutrition, mental health and other factors that shape our health. Ultimately, our shared goal is to have them remain in underserved, historically oppressed communities and help us close the death gap in our community."

The residency will address the current and upcoming workforce shortage of primary care physicians. Illinois is projected to need more than 1,000 new physicians by mid-decade. Changing this statistic feels difficult, but the new residency program is up for the challenge. By focusing on a more holistic and “clinic-first” mindset, the RUSH-Esperanza Family Medicine Residency is geared toward attracting more primary care physicians into the field with the hope that they will create a pipeline for future generations of primary care physicians.

Learn more about RUSH efforts to address health inequities, including the Rush BMO Institute for Health Equity and the multiyear partnership with IIT Institute of Design’s Action Lab.  

About Rush University

Rush University is the academic enterprise of Rush University System for Health. Rush University is comprised of four colleges: Rush Medical College, College of Nursing, College of Health Sciences and the Graduate College. Together they offer more than 40 degree and certificate programs; more than 60 postgraduate training programs for medical residents and fellows; and continuing education options. Rush University System for Health is consistently recognized for our outstanding patient care, education, research and community partnerships. In addition to Rush University, RUSH comprises Rush University Medical Center, Rush Copley Medical Center and Rush Oak Park Hospital, as well as an extensive provider network and numerous outpatient care facilities. 

About Esperanza 

Started in 2004 as a small community health center in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, Esperanza Health Centers today is one of the most respected Federally Qualified Health Centers in the nation, with five clinical sites across the primarily Latino neighborhoods of Chicago’s West and Southwest sides. Esperanza provides accessible and bilingual care in pediatrics, adult medicine, gynecology, obstetrics, behavioral health, psychiatry and other specialties to more than 45,000 patients annually, and has earned the prestigious National Quality Leader Award from HRSA on four occasions since 2016, a distinction received by fewer than 3% of FQHCs each year and a testament to our passion for quality care and innovation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Esperanza distinguished itself nationally through its testing and vaccination efforts, providing more than 60,000 tests and delivering more than 150,000 vaccine doses.

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