Eskenazi Health Foundation receives $1.5 million from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Grant will expand internship program for students with physical and sensory disabilities

INDIANAPOLIS, July 24, 2017 - Eskenazi Health and Eskenazi Health Foundation announce a $1.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to expand the Initiative for Empowerment and Economic Independence (IEEI). The Eskenazi Health program provides meaningful internships for students from Indiana colleges and universities to help the students achieve meaningful employment.

"Eskenazi Health is thrilled to be at the forefront of persons with physical disabilities obtaining economic empowerment," said Lisa Harris, M.D., CEO of Eskenazi Health. "The Initiative for Empowerment and Economic Independence aligns perfectly with what Eskenazi Health stands for.”

"We couldn't be more grateful for the significant support from Lilly Endowment Inc.," said Ernest Vargo II, CFRE, president and CEO of the Eskenazi Health Foundation. "This program not only provides real-world experience and compensation for physically and sensory disabled college students, but it also helps eradicate certain stereotypes and concerns that employers may have."

The timing of the announcement is fitting as July 26 marks the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“We are pleased to support the expansion of this college-to-career program,” said Sara B. Cobb, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for education. “The Initiative for Empowerment and  Economic Independence is not only supporting students through internships and career counseling, but is also strengthening participating colleges and universities in their efforts to meet the needs of students with disabilities and provide the opportunity for students to seek and secure valuable career experience.”

Since 2013, the college students who participated in the IEEI program have held internships in such fields as occupational/physical therapy, computer programming, music therapy and public affairs/communications. As part of their internships, students receive competitive hourly wages, lunch vouchers and nearby housing free of charge.

Interns are recruited from Indiana colleges and go through a rigorous application process. Students are required to submit transcripts, writing samples, and five professional and educational references. Those who are accepted to the program are held to the same standards as their fellow employees in their respective departments. The program prides itself on assigning meaningful work that benefits both intern and employer.

"The program demonstrates to the interns what the working world is like. That includes compensation and independent living. We want these interns to learn how to live on their own and operate on a budget, all important experiences in the growing process," said Christia Hicks, vice president of Human Resources at Eskenazi Health.

"We want the interns to be treated exactly like any other employee," said Hicks. "A large component of acceptance and independence is equal expectations. That's why we hold all of our interns to the same admission and performance standards as our full-time workers."

Starting with only one intern, IEEI has grown dramatically since its inception in 2013. This summer, IEEI has 19 interns with a host of majors from seven colleges. More universities and companies have expressed interest in working with the IEEI program, and the grant from Lilly Endowment will allow Eskenazi Health to expand the program even further.

“This is a truly remarkable and unprecedented initiative,” said Michael Huber, president and CEO of the Indy Chamber. “Programs like this continue the Indianapolis region’s trajectory as a leader in accessibility and opportunity.”

The grant will enable Eskenazi Health to expand IEEI with the ultimate goal of establishing the Gregory S. Fehribach Center for Empowerment and Economic Independence by 2019. Greg Fehribach is an attorney who works throughout Indianapolis, the state and the country to create accessible environments and opportunities for individuals with physical and sensory disabilities.

"Today the unemployment rate for students with physical and sensory disabilities is significantly higher than their able-bodied counterparts," said Fehribach. "This program provides experiences in and outside of the office that will make these students more marketable and appealing to future employers."

Fehribach founded the Fehribach Group in 1995 to assist local businesses in providing innovative accommodations to serve the disabled population. An alumnus of Ball State University, Fehribach is a former university trustee who now serves as a Distinguished Fellow in the Office of Institutional Diversity. An attorney in private practice for the past 31 years, he defends personal freedom through economic independence using entrepreneurial principles to support the fundamental belief in equality. He has begun a four-year term as a presidential appointee to the United States Access Board, which creates universal design standards and guidelines for barrier removal and access for people with disabilities. Under Fehribach's legal counsel, the City of Indianapolis has ranked among the top accessible cities since 2004 and was named the most accessible city in 2009 by the National Organization on Disability. 

In celebration of the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, organizations across the country will sign a proclamation to recommit to the ADA. The ADA and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) give civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age and religion. The ADA and ADAAA also assure equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities for access to businesses, employment, transportation, state and local government programs and services, and telecommunications.




Eskenazi Health Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) in 1985. The Foundation contributes leadership, guidance and philanthropic resources to Eskenazi Health and Health & Hospital Corporation of Marion County (HHC). Charged with helping Eskenazi Health and HHC reach their full potential, the Eskenazi Health Foundation funds key health care initiatives and programs through its philanthropic support; educates the community about the impact of philanthropy on the life-changing work of Eskenazi Health and HHC; provides meaningful opportunities for donor engagement; and grows the strategic impact of the Foundation Board. To learn more about the Eskenazi Health Foundation, please visit

CONTACT: Tom Surber
Phone: 317.880.4793
Cell: 317.402.9327
Pager: 317.310.5972

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