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Thurgood Marshall College Fund Partners with Big Pharma Company to Give $20M to Students and Teachers Over the Next 10 Years

Twenty-six Historically Black Colleges and Universities will receive $20 million over the next 10 years to support students. The initiative will be powered by two organizations and target the “next generation” of medical professionals, while supplementing educational programs focused on addressing some of the health disparities impacting the institutions.

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The Thurgood Marshall College Fund and Novartis, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, will partner to distribute the Novartis US Foundation HBCU Scholarship, an initiative to support over two dozen HBCUs throughout the United States for the next couple of decades, to worthy students.

TMCF was founded in 1987 as an organization set up to exclusively support the Black College Community.

Member schools include HBCUs and Predominantly Black Institutions that are supported by public dollars. A partial list of the schools eligible for TMCF assistance includes Alabama A&M University, Bowie State, Cheyney University, Chicago State University, Florida A&M University, Howard University and Medgar Evers College. Publicly supported HBCUs enroll over 80 percent of all students attending HBCUs.

Novartis is a Swiss pharmaceutical company dedicated to reimagining medicine in innovative ways, using science and technology, to improve and extend people’s lives.

The Novartis US Foundation HBCU Scholarship was birthed out of a larger agenda for the company called the Beacon of Hope pledge, a mission aimed to address health inequity and support the economic and educational positions of Black Americans and communities of color.

The goal of the collaboration is to expand opportunities for learners interested in health care or services through financing various grants, scholarships and mentorship programs. 

According to the press announcement, up to 360 students will receive $10,000 a year in scholarship funds. If accepted as a Novartis fellow, a student will have “access to training and professional development experiences, and real-world skill application.” 

Ten schools will be selected in this process each year.

The statistics are dire for people of color in the space, however, Novartis has been invested in this work for a few years. 

In 2021, the National Health Council and Novartis did a deep dive into the numbers of Blacks in the medical field, working on a four-part model that will also be implemented over the next decade.

  1. Enable the next generation of Black and African American leaders by creating equitable access to high-quality education and professional development for future leaders, in health science, technology, and business-related fields.
  2. Support the establishment of Digitally Enabled Clinical Trial Centers of Excellence, managed and led by clinical researchers of color, to build trust, increase diversity and inclusivity in clinical trials, and contribute to improved health outcomes for people of color.
  3. Research and validate existing data standards that drive diagnosis, clinical trial endpoints, and population health policy to identify areas for increased inclusivity and ensure accurate data collection and unbiased treatment decisions.
  4. Establish Digitally Enabled Research Centers on the impact of climate change and environment on health to identify environmental justice-focused solutions to issues that disproportionately affect communities of color.

The two quoted the Association of American Medical Schools’ report on “Diversity in Medicine: Facts and Figures,” and discovered in 2019, “Black and African Americans comprised 13.4% of the U.S. population but only 6.2% of medical school graduates, 5% of practicing physicians, and an even smaller proportion of clinical trial investigators.”

Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, president and CEO of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, shared that the reason why racial inequity exists in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) studies is that Black students need additional support.

Thurgood Marshall College Fund president and CEO Harry L. Williams said that the global COVID-19 pandemic illuminated more than ever the need for more health-care professionals from the Black community.

“While the world has focused on the numbers of COVID-19 positive infections and deaths, many have ignored the long-term educational and economic impacts of the pandemic – especially for Black Americans,” Williams said in a statement.

“Although there has been attention to the great disparities of Black Americans contracting COVID-19, and the higher death rates for Black Americans than for other racial groups, this community will be living with COVID-19 impacts for the next two decades in economic, educational, and health outcomes.”

Williams also said, “On top of that, some of the social unrest that occurred,” he said in reference to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

“And again, looking at some of those disparities and recognizing that HBCUs have always been in a place where they have lifted up, those that have been disenfranchised,” said Williams, according to WATN-TV in Memphis.

The scholarship and grant components have been implemented to alleviate some of the financial burdens that a career in science and medicine can project on students. 

Marion Brooks, vice president and US Country Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Novartis recognizes that. Brooks said, “Too often, students with incredible academic promise and achievement are locked out of opportunities due to cost and lack of access. We are committed to helping students access life-changing opportunities.”

He added, “The Novartis US Foundation HBCU Scholarship is one of those avenues that serves as a tremendous resource to ensure exceptionally talented students with financial need have the opportunities to succeed.”

The deadline to apply for the Novartis US Foundation HBCU Scholarship is Feb. 28. To access the application, please visit

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