Eskenazi Health Foundation received support from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help Eskenazi Health expand its pioneering internship program for students with physical disabilities. Lilly Endowment is providing funding for the Eskenazi Health Initiative for Empowerment and Economic Independence, a partnership between Eskenazi Health and Ball State University’s Bowen Center for Public Affairs. The partnership helps place Ball State students with internships in the Indianapolis health care system.

The $50,000 grant, along with support from the Howard Intermill and Marion Intermill Fenstermaker Fund, a fund of The Indianapolis Foundation, a CICF affiliate, and past support from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, has allowed the program to grow significantly since its inception in 2013.  

"The Eskenazi Health Foundation is so thankful for the outpouring of support from both local and national foundations to enable this internship program to change the lives of those often not afforded the opportunity to have meaningful internships in their field of study due to their unique accommodation requirements," said Ernest Vargo II, CFRE, president and CEO of the Eskenazi Health Foundation. "Eskenazi Health and the Eskenazi Health Foundation are thrilled to be able to host such an amazing program and wish to expand the program beyond the walls of the hospital in the future to other organizations and corporations who can benefit from this unique partnership with the Ball State University and The Bowen Center."

In 2013, Eskenazi Health and the Bowen Center formed a unique partnership to increase the number of internship opportunities available in Indianapolis for students with physical disabilities. Several students have already participated in the program at Eskenazi Health, and five students are participating in the program for the 2015 summer semester. The partnership is believed to be one of only a few of its kind in the United States.

"Even though people with physical disabilities have the ability and the desire to participate in our economy their unemployment rate is disproportionally higher than that of the general population," said Greg Fehribach, a member of the Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County Board of Trustees and a former Ball State University trustee. "Many people with disabilities, particularly those who have pursued undergraduate and graduate degrees, are chronically underemployed or unemployed. This partnership and the support from Lilly Endowment and others are key to helping these students achieve economic independence."

A Distinguished Fellow at the Bowen Center, Fehribach leads the Disability Project to help students with disabilities overcome barriers encountered in the workforce.

Interns enrolled in the paid internship program are placed in a variety of areas at Eskenazi Health, including rehabilitation therapy, wellness, public relations, information technology and palliative care. Interns gain experience by working with a team of colleagues to provide health care services to the Central Indiana community while earning a paycheck and credit toward their degrees.

"The Eskenazi Health Initiative for Empowerment and Economic Independence provides these students with meaningful work experiences to help them prepare for careers in diverse fields and reinforces that people with physical disabilities can and do make significant contributions to the nation’s workforce," said Christia Hicks, vice president of human resources at Eskenazi Health.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family -- J.K. Lilly, Sr., and sons J.K., Jr., and Eli -- through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. In keeping with the wishes of the three founders, Lilly Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. The Endowment affords special emphasis to projects that benefit young people and promote leadership education and financial self-sufficiency in the nonprofit, charitable sector.

CONTACT: Todd Harper
Phone: 317.880.4785
Pager: 317.310.5972
Email: todd.harper@eskenazihealth.edu