Eskenazi Health Foundation Receives $75,000 from Fifth Third Foundation

Grant will expand internship program for students with physical disabilities

INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 8, 2019 - Eskenazi Health and Eskenazi Health Foundation announce a $75,000 grant from the Fifth Third Foundation Strengthening our Communities Fund 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 students achieve gainful, equitable and sustainable employment.

“This highly capable, but financially limited, population faces a number of barriers to be competitive in the workforce and IEEI works to lessen those barriers through a variety of supportive measures,” said Ernest Vargo II, CFRE, president and CEO of the Eskenazi Health Foundation. “Eskenazi Health Foundation is extremely grateful to the Fifth Third Foundation for recognizing the merits of this incredible program and how it is truly changing not only our community, but the world.”

Since 2013, the college students who participated in the IEEI program have held internships in dozens of medical and non-medical fields. To date, more than 70 percent of graduated interns have either obtained fulltime employment or matriculated to a graduate program. This well exceeds the national average of less than 15 percent of college graduates with physical disabilities who are employed full-time. As part of their internships, students receive competitive hourly wages, lunch vouchers and nearby housing free of charge.

“We are committed to making community investments that improve lives, strengthen families and build strong communities in Indiana,” said Kevin Hipskind, regional president of Fifth Third Bank Greater Indiana. “We believe these grants provide meaningful support to the efforts of these organizations to build and maintain strong, vibrant communities and that provide pathways to opportunity.”

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.

“We believe in treating our IEEI interns exactly like any other employee because those are the expectations they will face during their careers,” said Christia Hicks, vice president of Human Resources at Eskenazi Health. “We prepare them to deal with the working world that includes understanding their compensation and how to operate on a budget, so they may take great pride in being self-sufficient.”

Starting with only one intern, IEEI has grown dramatically since its inception in 2013. By the end of 2018, IEEI provided 73 internships to students from 14 colleges and universities. In addition to placing interns throughout Eskenazi Health, internships are available at employer partners throughout the city. Additional universities and companies have expressed interest in working with the IEEI program, and the grant from Fifth Third Foundation will allow Eskenazi Health to expand the program even further.

Last year, Eskenazi Health Foundation announced a $1.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment to expand IEEI with the ultimate goal of establishing the Gregory S. Fehribach Center for Empowerment and Economic Independence in 2019. Plans are still on target for the center to open later this year. 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. Fehribach is also vice-chair of the Health & Hospital Corporation (HHC) of Marion County Board of Trustees and a member of the Eskenazi Health Foundation Board of Directors. Eskenazi Health serves as the public hospital division of HHC.


Eskenazi Health Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) in 1985. The Foundation inspires, energizes and promotes a vital, healthy Indianapolis community by providing strategic guidance and philanthropic resources to Eskenazi Health. Charged with helping Eskenazi Health reach its 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

Note: The Initiative for Empowerment and Economic Independence is financially assisted by the Fifth Third Foundation. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the Fifth Third Foundation.


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