Bloomberg Philanthropies pledged a major investment toward the prospect of a statewide healthcare sciences high school, contingent on approval of the school by the Alabama Legislature.
The donation of $26.4 million was announced Wednesday in Demopolis by a joint partnership of the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences Foundation, the Alabama Department of Education, and Whitfield Regional Hospital in Demopolis.
Demopolis was proposed as the location for the school because of its rural location, strong regional hospital and proximity to additional hospitals and higher education institutions.
The funding will go toward opening the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences, a first of its kind facility that will prepare students from across Alabama for careers in the healthcare industry while also addressing rural education and healthcare workforce development needs.
Gov. Kay Ivey originally announced plans for the school during her 2023 State of the State address.
“I am grateful to Bloomberg Philanthropies for supporting the vision of the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences,” said Ivey. “This first-of-its-kind school will provide Alabama students with career pathways in healthcare and will serve as a solution to the healthcare workforce shortage across all of rural Alabama.
“By combining classroom learning with hands-on experience, these specialized healthcare high schools will prepare students for careers with opportunities for growth and advancement,” said Bloomberg, who is the founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg LP. “America needs more healthcare workers, and we need a stronger, larger middle-class –and this is a way to help accomplish both goals.”
“I look forward to working with the Legislature during the 2024 legislative session to make this vision a reality.”
Dr. Eric Mackey, Alabama State Superintendent of Education, called the investment and effort to build the new school a “transformative educational endeavor.”
“The Alabama State Department of Education’s Vision Statement underscores the importance of education, recognizing that ‘a dynamic, healthy, and prosperous Alabama will increasingly rely on the education of its population,’” said Mackey.
“This initiative promises not only to offer unparalleled educational opportunities to students statewide but also holds the promise of cultivating healthier communities and fostering improved health outcomes for all residents of Alabama. This forward-thinking partnership sets the stage for a brighter, healthier future for our state and its citizens.”
The school is scheduled to open in 2026 and will serve from 85 to 100 students in each graduating class.
“We are humbled by the generosity and faith that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Bloomberg Philanthropies have placed in our community,” said Demopolis Mayor Woody Collins. “Demopolis and Marengo County have a long history of unwavering support for both its public education systems and its primary healthcare provider, Whitfield Regional Hospital.
“Our city is ready and willing to support the State of Alabama and the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences.”
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 700 cities and 150 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. In 2023, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $3 billion.
“Having served in both urban and rural hospitals, I’ve witnessed firsthand the special connection between a rural hospital and its community,” said Doug Brewer, CEO of Whitfield Regional Hospital.
“At Whitfield, that connection has been mutually beneficial. Because of our community support and a common commitment to the underserved healthcare needs of our region, our hospital has been able to re-start vital services such as labor and delivery and offer many services typically not available in a rural hospital.
“This special connection has made Whitfield a unique and exceptional partner for higher education to train future healthcare leaders. It is that same connection that will make Whitfield the perfect partner for the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences. I am encouraged that Bloomberg Philanthropies places value in those connections that make rural hospitals so special.”
Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News.