Health Equity Innovation Awards

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The Health Equity Innovation Awards support innovative ideas and solutions to advance health equity and ultimately improve health outcomes for historically marginalized and minoritized groups. The awards are built upon the principle that there are assets, opportunities, and innovative ideas within VUMC and in our communities that can advance health equity. Advancing health equity ensures that all people, including VUMC employees, patients, and community members, have the opportunity to achieve their optimal level of health. Health equity innovations at any stage or development are welcome, including early concepts and ideas. For more information, please refer to the RFP.

Inspiration Questions:

  1. How can VUMC help patients, employees, and/or community members find and navigate the organizations, programs, and resources they need to lead healthy lives?
  2. How can VUMC enhance internal and external partnerships to better organize and deliver care to patients, employees, and/or community members?
  3. What education or training would help VUMC conduct research and do quality improvement using a health equity lens? 
  4. How can data and technology advance health equity?
  5. How can VUMC address health inequities for patients, employers and/or communities? How can VUMC better understand the social and economic conditions that drive inequities?
  6. How can my idea support the priorities identified in VUMC's Racial Equity Plan or VUMC's Community Health Needs Assessment?

Interested in Applying?

Interested applicants should submit an intent to apply form by Friday, February 24, 2023. Intent to apply is not required but highly preferred. To submit your Health Equity Innovation Award application, please use this link to submit your completed application as a single PDF file by Friday, March 17, 2023. 

Please see the application guidelines and requirements below for more information.

If you are unable to submit a written application online, please contact OHE. We'd be happy to work with you on strategies for sharing your ideas in an alternative format.


  • Applicants and Teams:

    Awards are open to Vanderbilt faculty, staff, residents, fellows, and post-docs. VU students* in medicine, nursing, public health, and other disciplines may apply but awards must be directly relevant to VUMC. 

    *Please note: Students are required to identify a Faculty Sponsor when they submit a proposal. The Faculty Sponsor will be apprised of all financial activities and may be required to justify expenditures. In addition, the Faculty Sponsor should identify a Financial Lead in their department.

    Health Equity Focus:

    Proposed ideas and solutions for this award must improve health outcomes in historically marginalized and minoritized groups. The focus should be on health equity, which is different from Diversity & Inclusion. See this article to learn more about the difference between Health Equity and Diversity and Inclusion.

    Racial Equity Plan:

    VUMC and VUSM confirmed a commitment to dismantling racism and battling all forms of discrimination in the Racial Equity Plan (REP). Fulfilling these commitments requires a larger focus on confronting the structures and systems that disadvantage groups and drive health inequities. We encourage applicants to use the REP as inspiration.

    Systems Thinking:

    We encourage awards that address change at the policy and/or systems level. Please see health equity background information below for additional guidance.

    Support and Timeline:

    OHE will provide support up to $10,000. Project support will come directly from the OHE cost center. The OHE team will be engaged in a consultative capacity as needed. Awards must be completed within twelve months.

    Click here for the RFP to find more information on award guidelines.

  • Please see the application requirements below. You may also click here to download an application template. To submit your application, you will need to fill out this information below, save it as a PDF, and upload it to this link.

    Project Title: _________________________________

    Abstract: Provide a brief overview of your proposed innovation describing the health equity challenge, the relevance of your proposed idea, and what you hope to accomplish. (150 words max)

    Project Lead: ________________________________

    Project Lead Email: ___________________________

    Project Lead Role (faculty/staff/fellow/resident/student, etc.) _____________________

    Financial Lead: _______________________________

    Financial Lead Email: __________________________

    Students: ____________________________________

    Faculty Sponsor: ______________________________

    Faculty Sponsor Email: _________________________

    Health Equity Challenge: What is the challenge related to health equity at VUMC that the proposed innovation addresses? (150 words max)

    Rationale: Provide the justification for addressing your health equity challenge. Describe what the significance and what potential gaps your proposed innovation intends to fill. (150 words max)

    Proposed Innovation: Describe your proposed innovation, idea, or solution. How will the proposed innovation, idea, or solution address this challenge? (150 words max)

    Collaborators, Strategies, and Tactics: Tell us about your internal team and external team (if applicable) and plans for getting the work done. (150 words max)

    Measuring Impact: Provide an overview of what you feel your project can achieve. (150 words max)

    Project Objectives and Activities: Provide details about the project's objectives and activities and tie them back to the project goals. Please use the table below as a model. You can share the information in the table format or as a narrative broken down by S.M.A.R.T.I.E.  goals and objectives.




    Goal 1

    Objective 1.1


    Action 1

    Action 2 



    Objective 1.2

    Action 1

    Action 2 


    Goal 2

    Objective 2.1

    Action 1

    Action 2 


    *S.M.A.R.T.I.E. Objective(s) - Strategic, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic, Time-Bound, Inclusive, and Equitable

    **Activities - What actions support achieving the objective(s)?

    Proposed Budget and Budget Justification: Please use the budget template below and include a brief budget justification for each line item that explains the rationale for the funds requested. The maximum funding level is $10,000. Project support will come directly from the OHE cost center for effort and/or non-personnel expenses. Awardees and their financial leads are responsible for ensuring costs are allowable per VUMC policies.

    Proposed Budget

    Item Description 



    Ex. Salary





















    Total Amount:

















    Things to keep in mind:  Funds are available in FY24 per project timelines but must be used prior to June 12, 2024. Funds cannot be rolled over to the following fiscal year and funding is contingent on availability of funds.


    Questions about the awards should be directed to VUMC's Office of Health Equity at

    Key Dates

    Release Date: Friday, February 3, 2023

    Intent to Apply Deadline: Friday, February 24, 2023

    Application Deadline: Friday, March 17, 2023

    Awardee Orientation: Thursday, April 20, 2023

    Award Launch Date: July 1, 2023

  • What is health equity?

    Health equity is both the elimination of systemic obstacles and the creation of opportunities for all to be healthy. Click here to learn more.

    What are the social determinants of health?

    The social determinants of health are the conditions in the environments in which people live, and how those conditions affect their health outcomes. Click here to learn more.

    What is policy and systems change?

    Click here to learn more about addressing change at the policy, systems, and environmental level.  Click here to read about systems thinking.

  • How do I apply for a Health Equity Innovation Award?

    1. Submit an Intent to Apply form by Friday, February 24, 2023. Not required but highly preferred.
    2. Submit your Health Equity Innovation Award application by Friday, March 17, 2023. You must upload your completed application as a single PDF file. Please see application requirements for guidance.

    Who is eligible to apply?

    Awards are open to VUMC faculty, employees, residents, fellows and post-docs. VU students in medicine, nursing, public health and other disciplines may apply but awards must be directly relevant to VUMC.

    *Please note: Students are required to identify a Faculty Sponsor when they submit a proposal. The Faculty Sponsor will be apprised of all financial activities and may be required to justify expenditures. In addition, the Faculty Sponsor should identify a Financial Lead in their department.

    Can I apply with a team? Can my department apply?

    Yes! Submissions by teams of individuals across different departments and areas within VUMC are encouraged.  You may also submit an idea for advancing health equity within your department or area.   We assume you/your team will obtain appropriate approvals from managers.

    Can community partners be involved?

    Yes! We encourage community partners to be involved if the involvement of community partners is relevant to the idea or solution being proposed. 

    Do the project and financial leads have to be VUSM or VU faculty?

    The project and financial leads do not need to be faculty; they can be students. However, students will need a faculty sponsor who will be responsible for the conduct of the project.

    How many awards can I apply for?

    You can apply for multiple awards. If you have multiple great ideas, we welcome your submissions!

    May I still apply even if I miss the "Intent to Apply" deadline?

    Yes, you may still apply. However, full applications must be submitted by March 17, 2023. Applications will not be accepted after this time.

    The inspiration questions feel so “big”. Can you provide some examples of what these might look like?'

    We are really looking to harvest ideas from you. But, here are some ticklers:

    • How can I build capacity at VUMC (i.e., within my department, team, area) to understand what health equity is and how it relates to my work whether in research, education or clinical care?
    • How can materials, technology and other tools designed for patients, employees or our communities be adapted using a health equity lens? How can feedback from populations who systematically experience poor health outcomes be considered in design (or redesign) of these tools?
    • How can VUMC equitably engage organizations in the community to solve a problem that can advance health equity for our patients, employees and/or community?
    • How can I learn from other institutions and/or thought leaders who are doing exemplary work in health equity and then make a plan to bring what I learn to VUMC?
    • How can policies and practices at VUMC better support the health of our employees, patients and communities?

    Can ideas focus on any of VUMC's mission areas (education, research, clinical care)?

    Yes!  We are looking for ideas that are research or quality improvement focused as well as ideas that are policy or program focused.  Ideas can focus on issues related to clinical care as well as education and training.

    What is the timeline for implementing the proposed idea or solution related to health equity?

    The implementation period for award ideas can vary in length but awards must be completed within twelve months from the launch date.

    How many winners will be selected?

    We do not have a select number of award recipients.

    Are there current recipients of the Health Equity Innovation Awards?

    Yes! To learn more about Health Equity Innovation Awards recipients, click here.

    What criteria will be used to evaluate the Health Equity Innovation Award submissions?

    Our primary criteria for evaluating submissions are that they: 1) propose an innovative idea or solution and 2) that they advance health equity.

    How will the award funds be disbursed?

    The OHE will provide support up to $10,000. Project support will come directly from the OHE cost center for effort and/or non-personal expenses. Please note: funds are available to use immediately after your launch date but must be used prior to June 10th, 2024 and cannot be rolled over to the following fiscal year.

    What will the winner(s) receive besides funds?

    Besides monetary support of up to $10,000, our OHE team will be engaged in a consultative capacity as needed. We will also feature you and your work on our website and in other communications venues.

    What if I have an idea but don't want to submit an application for an award?

    Please submit ideas through our Electronic Idea Box here.  We will review idea submissions regularly.

    What if I have additional questions?

    Please contact the Office of Health Equity at

  • Click here to learn more about past awardees!