Photo courtesy of Todd and Janelle Collins

Todd and Janelle Collins of Red Hill Ventures have partnered with Atrium Health’s nonprofit college to help remove barriers for students entering the nursing field, particularly for applicants of color.

The Charlotte business executives established the Todd and Janelle Collins Nurse Aide Scholars Program at Carolinas College of Health Sciences aimed at filling the talent pipeline while improving representation in the healthcare industry. 

“The nurse’s aide program is the first rung on that career ladder, and Janelle and I wanted to help people launch their careers,” said Todd Collins, founder and CEO of the Charlotte-based real estate investment firm who also sits on Atrium’s foundation board. 

In addition to providing a full-tuition scholarship for five recipients beginning this fall, the program will provide an additional stipend for students to work part-time while enrolled. Tuition and fees total $1,100, according to the college’s website. 

Conversations about racial disparities in healthcare resurfaced as Covid-19 unequally impacted Black and Brown communities. Research shows that appropriately training medical professionals and recruiting more providers from underrepresented racial backgrounds can effectively address disparities in the quality of care.

Janelle, who serves as director of brand and communications at Red Hill Ventures, said having a diverse student population going through the nurse’s aide program plays a role in improving the representation in healthcare.

“Learning and working in a more diverse environment helps strengthen the perspective and empathy a patient of color receives,” she said.

Nurse’s aides provide basic care to patients, mostly within homes or in long-term care facilities, under the supervision of a registered nurse. Even before the pandemic, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing projected a national nurse shortage would intensify as Baby Boomers age and the need for health care grows.

College officials say its nurse’s aide students are set up for success to become certified nursing assistants, a career currently in high demand at Atrium Health. The median annual wage for nursing assistants was $30,850 in May 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Kirstin Ashford, vice president – chief of staff at Atrium Health Foundation, says the Collins’ commitment is significant as Atrium evolves into a learning health system. Last month, Atrium launched its “Give Hope” philanthropic campaign to raise at least $500 million over the next six years. The announcement of the Wake Forest School of Medicine – Charlotte campus, expected to break ground in 2022, is one of the campaign’s signature initiatives highlighting Atrium’s emphasis on education.  

“With the support of Todd and Janelle and other folks who are stepping forward to support education, research and our patient experience, it really inspires others,” she said. “We were grateful to them for taking the lead so that others will follow.”

Katrina covers Charlotte's Black business scene for QCity Metro. She's a Miami transplant, pescatarian and lover of the arts. She earned a public relations degree from the University of Florida. Got a...

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