NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Norfolk State University and Eastern Virginia Medical School have teamed up to make some change.

“Working together to address issues and health equity in our underserved communities is critical to driving lasting change for those who need it most,” said Norfolk State president Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston.

Minorities are grossly underrepresented in healthcare professions. They’re also much more likely to suffer due to health disparities.

“The challenges we face are significant,” said EVMS President Dr. Alfred Abuhamad. “Barriers to care, including a lack of insurance coverage, an inadequate supply of healthcare providers, systemic social inequities and difficulties navigating the healthcare system contribute to the health disparities that prevent many Virginians from achieving optimal health.”

The program, known as the EVMS-NSU Research and Training Incubator for Collaboration in Health Equity initiative, or ENRICHE, hopes to tip the scales.

The program is designed to enhance collaborative research focused on healthcare disparities and to expand pathways for NSU students interested in a medical career or the health profession.

That includes students like Ariana Simmons, who hopes to get into the dermatology field one day.

“I feel like it would be a lot of things that people wouldn’t know,” Simmons said, “so this will also give people the opportunity to learn new things and more about the field in medicine and all that stuff.

The program would get the students into EVMS through mentorship programs to facilitate enrollment into their programs.

Together, NSU and EVMS have invested $500,000 to this initiative.

“We needed to take this to the next level,” Adams-Gaston said, “for the community.”