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Eskenazi Health Foundation gives $2 million to support public health


INDIANAPOLIS — A $2 million gift from the Eskenazi Health Foundation will help emergency physicians at Indiana University School of Medicine develop innovative ways to serve the city’s most vulnerable residents and address public health problems that drive patients to the emergency room.

The gift is endowed and will provide ongoing funding for an IU faculty member to conduct research, design community outreach programs, and train future emergency physicians. The faculty member will be an emergency medicine physician who practices at Eskenazi Health, one of the nation’s largest safety net health systems.

“Particularly at Eskenazi Health, we know that our patients have needs that extend well beyond acute care,” said Cherri D. Hobgood, MD, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine and a practicing emergency medicine physician. “This gift will not only allow us to improve treatment in the ED, but it will also enable us to find effective ways to connect patients with essential services once they are discharged and facilitate the delivery of care outside the walls of the emergency department.”

IU School of Medicine-affiliated emergency physicians across the state see more than 400,000 patients a year, more than 90,000 of whom are at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis. They have a long record of collaborating with hospital, government and community partners to address an array of public health concerns. 

“IU School of Medicine and Eskenazi Health have partnered to improve health care in Central Indiana for more than 100 years. As we explored how to broaden this relationship, the Eskenazi Health Foundation looked for ways we could help enhance research, community outreach and train the next generation of emergency medicine physicians,” said Ernest Vargo II, CFRE, president and CEO of the Eskenazi Health Foundation.  

For example, the Michael & Susan Smith Emergency Department at Eskenazi Health — like many hospital emergency departments across the country — has seen a surge in patients who have overdosed on heroin or other opioids as part of a nationwide epidemic.

In response, IU emergency physicians developed Project POINT. The program — jointly funded by the Eskenazi Health Foundation and the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation — provides counseling to overdose patients, connects them to community resources to assist in recovery, and sends them home with naloxone, an antidote drug that can pull victims of opioid overdoses back from the brink of death. The program also provides rapid testing for Hepatitis C to stem the spread of the disease among intravenous drug users.

In addition, emergency physicians partnered with Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services to reduce excessive use of the 911 emergency system. The result was the Community Outreach and Resource Efficiency Care Team, or CORE, which connects patients to medical and social support services so they no longer depend on “911” calls to receive routine health care.

CORE helps people like Indianapolis resident James French. Troubled by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other painful symptoms, he became a regular in a local emergency room — one month reaching 22 visits, he says.

The CORE team determined that French, who is deaf and spends much of his time alone in his apartment, would benefit from social interaction as well as help taking his COPD medication regularly. With services in place, it’s now been five weeks since the last time he called paramedics to take him to the hospital.

“Programs such as CORE and Project POINT demonstrate the value of efforts that go beyond the emergency department or the transport of people to the hospital,” said Dr. Hobgood, the Rolly McGrath Professor of Emergency Medicine. “This generous gift from the Eskenazi Health Foundation will ensure IU School of Medicine continues to have the resources to design, test and implement these kinds of novel approaches, and to improve the systems by which patients receive emergency department care in Indianapolis and beyond.”

The gift from Eskenazi Health Foundation counts as part of For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign. Thanks to a gift-matching program that is part of the campaign, financial support available from the endowed fund each year will essentially be doubled.

In recognition of the foundation’s generosity, the faculty physician who receives support from the fund will be known as the Eskenazi Health Foundation Professor of Emergency Medicine.