NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Sentara Healthcare announced Thursday a $10 million investment to help improve regional health sciences programs — Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University are among the recipients.

The Sentara Healthier Communities Fund investment will be split into three areas of focus over a two-year period to reduce health disparities and strengthen health sciences programs in Hampton Roads.  

“We can only do so much to improve the health and wellbeing of our community inside the walls of our facilities,” said Howard P. Kern, president and CEO of Sentara Healthcare.

“In order to drive lasting change, we must work together to extend our impact beyond our walls to the environment in which people live, work, and learn. Sentara is proud to collaborate with Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University, Eastern Virginia Medical School, and community partners to tackle these pressing issues.”

On Thursday, Sentara Healthcare awarded a $4 million grant to Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University to help develop a regional School of Public Health. 

“We are grateful for this investment, which will go a long way towards helping Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University strengthen our existing health sciences infrastructure and ensure our programs are more closely aligned with other healthcare partners in the region,” said Old Dominion University President John R. Broderick.

“Old Dominion University is proud to work alongside Sentara, Eastern Virginia Medical School, CHKD, and Norfolk State University to tackle health inequities and improve social determinants of health in Hampton Roads and across the Commonwealth.”

Additionally, Sentara will invest up to $3 million to support collaboration among ODU, Eastern Virginia Medical School, and NSU as they address public health and health inequities in underserved communities. 

“The Norfolk State University community is grateful for Sentara’s commitment to address health disparities in Hampton Roads. We are proud and excited to collaborate with our community partners, Sentara and Old Dominion University, and Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters to address and proactively respond to the health inequities impacting those around us,” said NSU President Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston.

“This generous investment will enable us to expand and tailor our health sciences program’s focus to best prepare our graduates to meet the specific health needs of Hampton Roads. We look forward to collaborating with Eastern Virginia Medical School and Old Dominion University, and Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters to facilitate actions that will improve public health in the communities that we serve.”

In Hampton Roads, ODU produces the largest number of health sciences graduates in the region, as well as the greatest percentage who stay locally after graduation to join the local workforce.

Lastly, the Sentara Healthier Communities Fund will allot $3 million in grants to community organizations and partners in regions of Hampton Roads that Sentara Healthcare serves but are beyond ODU, NSU, or EVMS.

The goal for this funding is to make public health and health equity improvement grants in cities such as Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, and Suffolk to address public health and health inequities in underserved communities in these localities. 

“We can only do so much to improve the health and well-being of our community inside the walls of our facilities,” said Howard P. Kern, president and CEO of Sentara Healthcare.

“In order to drive lasting change, we must work together to extend our impact beyond our walls to the environment in which people live, work, and learn. Sentara is proud to collaborate with Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University, Eastern Virginia Medical School, and community partners to tackle these pressing issues.”