National Medical Fellowships (NMF) established the Health Equity Leaders Program and is creating the framework for an emerging Health Equity Institute as cornerstones of their work to pursue a bold vision announced in 2022 to achieve lasting health equity. These initiatives are designed to grow and strengthen the ranks of healthcare professionals, individuals and organizations committed to health equity and to establish NMF as a nationally recognized thought leader in the discourse of achieving it. 

Health Equity Leaders Program (HELP)

Each year, HELP provides financial and mentorship support for students Underrepresented in Medicine (URM) and guides these students in designing and conducting community-based health equity research projects. The program affords students the opportunity to become advocates and leaders in health equity and contributes to the creation of a healthcare workforce pathway that champions equal opportunity for aspiring professionals and equitable healthcare access for Black, Indigenous, Latine, People of Color communities.

In its inaugural year, HELP awarded 30 scholarships of $10,000 each to URM health professions students. This marks the initial step towards a goal of granting 90 scholarships over three years. Mentors and partner sites working with students also received small financial awards for their invaluable support throughout the year.

Through their participation in HELP, the first cohort of students:

  • Deepened their understanding of community needs
  • Learned to be adaptive and flexible in community-based research
  • Built relationships with their mentors, sites, and the communities they served
  • Developed an appreciation for the role of trust in health equity work
  • Gained firsthand experience working with populations who distrust the healthcare system because of past experiences.

The students listened. They developed trusting relationships with patients and communities. They learned what it means to “show up.” The HELP scholars made a difference today – and will become critical contributors to health equity tomorrow.

Brave of Heart’s investment in National Medical Fellowships has been a transformative force in the organization’s work to advance health equity. The Health Equity Leaders Program not only provides scholarships to emerging health equity leaders in medical school, nursing school and physician assistant programs, but also prepares and empowers them with a deep understanding of health disparities. The program’s built-in mentorship and experience with site partners provides scholars with opportunities to put learnings into practice has greatly enriched the students’ experiences.

Michellene Davis, Esq.
President and Chief Executive Officer


of HELP scholars responding to a survey indicated the program has increased their cultural competency, humility, and understanding of effective health equity promotion strategies and practices.


of HELP scholars responding to a survey indicated they will continue health equity activities during and beyond their academic programs

Reflections from HELP Scholars

Connections and relationships

“I learned that collectively we can accomplish much if we are not so worried about who gets the credit. I also learned that as healthcare professionals and people of color, we are responsible for helping to bring up the next generation.”


“I learned that in all we do we must strive to ensure there is equity in practice. The communities we serve must be represented in our research because they have an immense value.”

Building trust

“Community based research is hard, especially with the population I work with. They are so used to being taken advantage of and people not caring in earnest about them. But once you show that you are real and won’t bail on them, then you become part of their family.” 

Value of financial support

“Without these funds, it is impossible for a student to put together this type of project. The money not only removed barriers to beginning the program, but it also helped with personal expenses. These funds allow students who do not receive family support to continue with our studies – with a little less financial burden.”

Health Equity Institute (HEI)

NMF is building the foundational infrastructure for an emerging Health Equity Institute to pursue its vision for a more just, equitable, and inclusive health system.

Efforts are underway to build organizational and community capacity for actionable health equity leadership practices, programs, and policies to advance equitable and accountable healthcare systems change for improved health outcomes for Black, Indigenous, Latine, People of Color communities. Leveraging NMF’s network of exceptional alumni, currently enrolled scholars, Board members, strategic partners, and emerging healthcare leaders enables NMF to develop, adopt, and deploy social innovation solutions to pressing health equity challenges.

Efforts underway include:

  1. Understanding current state, root causes, and support needs related to NMF scholar and alumni lived-experience,
  2. Collaborating with NMF research partners to create and develop health equity tools, research, and resources for dissemination across networks,
  3. Leveraging learning, knowledge transfer, and novel approaches to shift health equity narrative and practice to build power within Black, Indigenous, Latine, People of Color student, scholar, alumni, faculty, and mentor communities, and
  4. Developing pathways for impact at the institutional and policy levels. 

The project aims to serve several audiences. The primary audience consists of healthcare practitioners and leaders across the U.S., who will utilize the resources and tools developed and shared by NMF to champion and deliver on health equity goals within their organizations. A secondary audience includes policy makers across the country to help them understand the importance of providing support for these efforts. Finally, this project will ultimately help patients in Black, Indigenous, Latine, People of Color communities through improved outcomes, as these efforts result in a more inclusive, equitable, and accountable healthcare system in the long-term.

The Brave of Heart grant was a catalyst for increased investment from other funding sources and visionary philanthropy. With these partnerships and collective endorsement of the critical need for our work, NMF has been able to raise its sights and is forming an even more ambitious plans to deploy research, training, convenings, advocacy, and knowledge dissemination to effect lasting and equitable change in healthcare.

Michellene Davis, Esq.
President and Chief Executive Officer

Year 1

Foundation setting

  • Conducted a Health Equity environmental scan to identify gaps, current efforts, and areas NMF is uniquely positioned to address 
  • Analyzed and understood the capacity and unique assets NMF and its network offer 
  • Built necessary infrastructure 
  • Fostered relationships critical to the work 
  • Secured additional grant funding 
  • Developed the research and evaluation capacity to aid in the development of an organizational health equity assessment and execution of the mental health and well-being study 

Years 2-3

Leading indicators of success

  • Development, distribution, and analysis of mental health and well-being study, including Black, Indigenous, Latine, People of Color health professional survey and roundtable discussions, and dissemination of findings with critical stakeholders
  • Improved understanding of the current health system, Black, Indigenous, Latine, People of Color health professional experience, and health equity leadership practices 
  • Increased access to and engagement with mental health and wellbeing supports tailored to the needs of Black, Indigenous, Latine, People of Color students and practitioners in healthcare  
  • Creation of Health Equity Institute accountability tools and corresponding implementation strategies for their use at the institutional level (e.g., medical schools, health systems)
  • Established processes, programs, and policies to support equitable pathways to leadership for Black, Indigenous, Latine, People of Color health professionals


Longer-term outcomes

  • Systemic changes in healthcare practices, programs and policies that advance health equity
  • Increased adoption of accountable institutional commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion in healthcare organizations
  • Enhanced Black, Indigenous, Latine, People of Color representation in health equity focused leadership in healthcare
  • Improved health outcomes for Black, Indigenous, Latine, People of Color communities 
  • A more inclusive, equitable, and accountable healthcare system