We're Better Together: Community, 1-17-2017

Dear colleagues,

We’ve all seen what an enormous impact this campus has had on Colorado’s economy, technological development and overall health care. But what about our impact locally? In my November State of the Campus address, I stressed that we cannot lose sight of our commitment to Aurora, the city in which we live and work. So today I’d like to update you on how we are working to leverage our strengths in our own neighborhood.

Com​munity Campus Partnership

The Community Campus Partnership (CCP), created three years ago, fosters collaborative relationships between CU Anschutz and the surrounding neighborhoods to improve the health and economy of north Aurora. The partnership now includes over 30 community and campus leaders, including University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Hospital Colorado. Its work focuses on two programs: Hire Local and Learn Local.

Through “Hire Local,” the major employers on campus – both hospitals and the university –help neighborhood residents, particularly those from north Aurora, get jobs on campus. Currently, the program focuses on entry-level opportunities within health sciences, facilities, and office support. CCP partners with local organizations for outreach, job training support, and to help applicants navigate the application processes. One pathway is through the Healthcare Bridge Program, a partnership with Community College of Aurora. Since April 2015, 71 Aurora residents have participated in this program, with a 97% completion rate.  Of those, 38 have been hired by hospitals in the metro area, and 27 of those are working here at CU Anschutz. The CCP is also developing a physical job hub to serve Aurora residents.

The “Learn Local” program creates pipelines for Aurora K-12 students interested in the health sciences while increasing the interaction between CU Anschutz students and local residents. Programs include hosting targeted groups of high school students on campus, `Lunch and Learn’ meetings where CU Anschutz students go to Aurora high schools and talk about careers in health care and how to get there, and pre-health education programs by the Office of Inclusion and Outreach and Area Health Education Center (AHEC). In addition, Children’s Hospital Colorado is partnering with the Communities in Schools Program to provide wrap-around case management and corresponding services to Aurora Public Schools students.

Helping the homeless

Aurora’s only homeless shelter, the Comitis Crisis Center, is just steps from the campus, and we have ramped up our efforts there in recent years. Our community donates coats, shoes, food and other needed items. Dental school students provide free screening and hygiene services. Our nurses and physicians volunteer at the shelter, and UCH emergency department leadership is working with Comitis on follow-up care for residents after they’re discharged from the emergency department. The College of Nursing’s Sheridan Health Service provides clinical care.  We also are developing service learning opportunities through the School of Medicine as part of the curriculum for the Urban Underserved Track. Students in this track will have the opportunity to learn from the homeless directly about their experiences, which will help the students provide better treatment.

In 2017, the City of Aurora will open a Homeless Day Center to provide a place for homeless people to go while Comitis is closed between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. The center will be just north of the campus facilities service center in the former gymnasium of the Aurora police training academy. Several university faculty and students have expressed interest in helping homeless persons at the Day Center address their health care needs by offering guidance about the health care system and advice related to life choices and how they affect health.

Clinical services

We are also providing clinical services in the community. The DAWN Clinic (Dedicated to Aurora’s Wellness and Needs) was developed and is run by CU Anschutz students who work with licensed physician volunteers to serve uninsured adults in Aurora. Open on Tuesday nights for medical care and on Wednesday nights for physical therapy care, the clinic has seen 746 patients since it opened in March 2015. In the oral health arena, CU Anschutz dental students and faculty have provided more than 3,000 free dental screenings and care through the Boys and Girls Clubs of Denver, Give Kids a Smile Day and at the School of Dental Medicine Heroes Clinic. In addition, Children’s Hospital Colorado is launching a new partnership with Tri-County Health where it will embed community health workers in a Women Infants & Children (WIC) clinic to ensure mothers and their children are being linked with comprehensive health and community-based services.

More ways to engage

In November, I announced the renewal of the annual CU in the Community program, a chance for faculty and staff to commit four hours of work time through Feb. 20 volunteering in organizations throughout metro Denver. Beyond this program, there are many opportunities for all of us to participate in the university’s work with our neighbors. To learn more about what you can do to engage yourself or your students in the community, plan to attend the Community Engagement Forum on March 13 from 3-5 p.m. in Krugman Hall (details to follow) or visit the Community Campus Partnership website​ and plan to attend the Community Engagment Forum on campus this spring (details to follow).

Through all of these programs and many others, we are demonstrating our commitment to the Aurora community. We envision a partnership between our campus and the surrounding neighborhoods that results in more vibrant, healthy, learning communities both on and off campus. We truly are better together.

Don Elliman

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