When University of Chicago Medicine held a job fair at a local church a couple of years ago, hospital officials expected a few hundred attendees. To their surprise, about 1,100 South Side residents showed up. The University of Chicago Medical Center hired more than 100 of the applicants.
“That's part of our DNA as one of the largest employers on the South Side—to provide opportunities for people who truly want jobs, understand what we do in healthcare, and want to make a difference in people's lives,” said Daryl Wilkerson, the system's vice president of support services.
The hospital began partnering with area churches and community organizations about 10 years ago in an effort to boost local hiring. The hospital is in the affluent, predominantly white Hyde Park neighborhood, where the Obamas have a home. Surrounding Hyde Park are neighborhoods that are predominantly lower-income and black.
Like UChicago, other urban hospitals also are trying to address their communities' economic needs by stepping up local hiring, said Erika Poethig, director of urban policy initiatives at the Urban Institute. They realize that employment is related to good health, and that providing jobs is one of the most important things they can do to help their communities. “When you have higher unemployment and greater incidence of poverty, this has a health consequence,” Poethig said.
Massachusetts General Hospital each summer employs hundreds of high school and college students from economically disadvantaged areas in Boston. The Cleveland Clinic offers paid internships to city public-school students. Penn Medicine has enrolled more than 225 West Philadelphia high school students in a two-year work-study program that prepares them for medical jobs.