Murphy Hall at KUMC

Kansas Health Foundation donates $645,000 for Community Health Project

Jane Heide, Allison Edwards, and Heidi Holliday
From left are, Jane Heide, co-director of the Rosedale Healthy Kids Initiative; Allison Edwards, KU School of Medicine student who interned with Healthy Kids Initiative; and Heidi Holliday, Healthy Kids Initiative community organizer.

A program that enables University of Kansas students to help people who lack access to adequate healthcare has received a shot in the arm. The Kansas Health Foundation donated $645,000 for the program, called the Community Health Project.

Each year, about 20 KU students in the schools of medicine, allied health, pharmacy and urban planning participate in summer internships through the Community Health Project. They spend two months with a social service agency, many of them in the Kansas City area, some in other parts of the state.

Allison Edwards, a second-year medical student, participated in the project this year. She planned and led a “Healthy Kids Camp” for children in the Rosedale neighborhood of Kansas City, Kan. Her goal was to inspire kids to eat healthier foods and exercise more. She also wrote a handbook on how to plan and run the camp.

“After this, I am now super energized to get back for my second year of medical school,” said Edwards.

Jane Heide, director of The Healthy Kids Initiative, said it’s difficult to put a value on what the Community Health Project means to the organizations it serves. The Healthy Kids Camp had been in existence since 2004. “But this year, we had an intern to really focus all her energies on the camp, organizing it, carrying it out, and creating this handbook,” Heide said. “It’s a dream come true.”

The Kansas Health Foundation’s gift provides funds for the program to continue for another five years.

Steve Coen, president and CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation, of Wichita, said the foundation is honored to continue its long-standing partnership with the medical center on this project. “During the past 15 years, we’ve seen the impact a community-based learning opportunity can have on the future careers of medical, public health, and community health students,” Coen said. “This is an effort that is of great benefit to both the students and the communities they serve.”

Cheryl Gibson, director of the Community Health Project, said the program takes students outside the four walls of an academic setting and lets them experience what community health is. “It provides a different perspective and helps to generate a greater understanding and compassion toward individuals who are disenfranchised,” Gibson said. "It lets them see firsthand the barriers and challenges bombarding individuals who, for whatever reason, lack access to health care."

Dr. Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center and dean of the KU School of Medicine, said the Kansas Health Foundation’s support makes a remarkable difference for the program.

“Our Community Health Project started up in 1993, and the Kansas Health Foundation has been providing financial support ever since,” Atkinson said. “Their generous gifts have made a longtime, positive and lasting impact, not only on the students, but also on the agencies and individuals they serve.”

The Kansas Health Foundation is a private philanthropy dedicated to improving the health of all Kansans. For more information about the Kansas Health Foundation, visit www.kansashealth.org.

The gift will be managed by KU Endowment, the official fundraising and fund-management foundation for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

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