Eskenazi Health has announced the establishment of The Gregory S. Fehribach Center, which will expand efforts to increase employment opportunities for students with physical disabilities at Eskenazi Health and throughout central Indiana.
The timing of the announcement coincides with the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law, thus equalizing the playing field for people with disabilities.
The expansion of the program and the formation of The Gregory S. Fehribach Center comes after a $1.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. in 2017. Fehribach is an attorney who works throughout Indianapolis, the state and the country to create accessible environments and opportunities for individuals with physical disabilities.
“Today the unemployment rate for students with physical disabilities is significantly higher than their able-bodied counterparts,” Fehribach said. “This center provides employment and social experiences that complement the internship, thus providing a well-rounded internship opportunity for college students.”
Since 2013, Eskenazi Health has offered 116 internships to students with physical disabilities, including 44 internships so far in 2019. The interns have come from 19 colleges and universities, and have not only interned at Eskenazi Health, but also Eli Lilly and Company, Center for Youth and Adults with Conditions of Childhood at Riley Children’s Hospital, Health and Science Innovations, Indiana Family and Social Services Administration’s Division of Aging, Indiana Family and Social Services Administration’s Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services, Lumina Foundation, Old National Bank and Regenstrief Institute.
“Eskenazi Health is thrilled to be at the forefront of persons with physical disabilities obtaining independence and economic empowerment,” said Lisa Harris, M.D., CEO of Eskenazi Health. “The Gregory S. Fehribach Center aligns perfectly with what Eskenazi Health stands for.”
The college students who have participated in the 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, transportation support and nearby housing free of charge. In addition, a variety of wraparound events and opportunities for professional development are part of the internship. This summer there have been weekly lunch and learn sessions, a presentation on Franklin Delano Roosevelt titled “Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Elected Because of or In Spite of His Disability,” a special dinner at Duos Kitchen on meal preparation and healthy eating and a social outing at an Indiana Fever basketball game.
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 Gregory S. Fehribach Center is dedicated to increasing the number of college graduates with physical disabilities in the workforce and facilitating their full civic and economic inclusion,” said Ernest Vargo II, CFRE, president and CEO of the Eskenazi Health Foundation. “This effort, made possible by the support of a number of organizations and individuals, including Eskenazi Health, Lilly Endowment Inc., Frank and Katrina Basile and many others, will help not only provide real-world experience for students with physical disabilities, but also help eradicate certain stereotypes and concerns that employers may have.”
The program started as the Initiative for Empowerment and Economic Independence, a partnership between Eskenazi Health and Ball State University, helping to place Ball State students with internships in the Indianapolis health care system. Every year, more universities and companies have continued to express interest in working with Eskenazi Health.
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 promotes economic independence using entrepreneurial principles, thereby supporting the fundamental right of 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 and many of its renowned amenities rank highly for accessibility in the United States.