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Dan McGowan - 7/15/2015

A program in Indianapolis offering a bevy of medical internship opportunities for college students with disabilities is gaining momentum. The Eskenazi Health Initiative for Empowerment and Economic Independence is receiving support from Lilly Endowment Inc., the Central Indiana Community Foundation and the New Jersey-based Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Health & Hospital Corp. of Marion County Board Member Greg Fehribach says cities trying to build a more diverse work force can learn a lot from the effort, which is believed to be the only one of its kind in the country.

Fehribach says the ultimate goal is to help set up people with disabilities for leadership positions once they enter the work force. He adds that the program is preparing "ready, willing and able" future employees in a wide range of fields. "Today's hospitals are 'small cities,'" Fehribach tells Inside INdiana Business. "We have everything from food service to high-intensity surgeries and every supporting aspect in-between." Which means, he says, the program is set up to support internships in any number of career paths that branch out from traditional hospital roles, including occupational therapy and public relations.

Students participating in the program can work in a variety of roles and meet with fellow interns to discuss and share their range of experiences. He says interns working for employers including Eskenazi, the City of Indianapolis and Emmis Communications Corp. are presented with "cross-breeding" opportunities in the work place that cover several disciplines in a large, corporate setting.

Fehribach, a former Ball State University trustee who works with the school's Bowen Center for Public Affairs, says it is important to point out these are paid positions that offer wages comparable to other internships. Five students are currently participating and he says the program could potentially grow or be duplicated in other cities, but would need to match its level of accessibility and cooperation among the municipal, college and business communities.

The Lilly Endowment recently donated $50,000 to the program.

You can connect to more information about the Eskenazi Health Initiative for Empowerment and Economic Independence program by clicking here.