Ethnic Health Institute

The Ethnic Health Institute (EHI) was founded in 1997 as a hospital-based community benefit program aimed at addressing disparities in chronic diseases disproportionately affecting ethnic and underserved communities in the Bay Area. EHI joined Samuel Merritt University (SMU) in 2016, aligning with the university's mission to educate students to become compassionate health care professionals who positively transform the experience of care in diverse communities.

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The Ethnic Health Institute will be a national model for university and community-based partnerships that promote health equity for underserved and ethnic community members; and prepare and support SMU students to serve diverse communities, impact health equity, and increase workforce diversity.

What We Do

EHI works collaboratively to bridge SMU students, faculty, and staff with diverse community members and the organizations that serve them; aligning opportunities for learning and service to the community. 

The Ethnic Health Institute's highest priority is to support SMU students, staff, and faculty to stay safe and healthy during this time. Here are just a few of many COVID-19 resources available from SMU and surrounding community organizations.


SMU Resources:



Community Resources

COVID-19 Volunteer Opportunities

We cannot stress enough the importance of social distancing as major service to community and over all public health. However, for those feeling called to support community partners in urgent need of volunteers, please see the opportunities below:

  • The California Office of the Governor has identified ways to safely help. Click here to access the list.
  • Days of Girls' Masks4Millions Campaign, involves volunteers sew masks for healthcare workers. This organization also sews reusable menstrual kits for girls and women in developing nations. For more information visit their website.
  • The following sites are for those seeking support and those looking for ways to serve. Volunteers are matched with vulnerable community members based in geographic area and availability.
SF Peninsula
  • The City of San Mateo has identified COVID-19 specific volunteer opportunities. For more information visit their website.
  • The First United Church of Loomis in Placer County is accepting packaged foods for its food closet that serves any families in need in the South Placer County area. To donate please contact the church office at (916) 652-0469 for drop off information.
  • Clothes and other donations are being accepted for homeless people at the Poverello House . Call (559) 498-6988 for information and visit the website for more information.

Our advisory board is made up of health care and academic professionals who advise and support EHI’s efforts and goals. 

John Simmons, MD, Chairperson
Retired Medical Oncologist

Donna C. White Carey, MD
Pediatrician, Health Consultant, Health Motivator, Community Galvanizer

Mildred Crear, RN, MPH
Community and Education Chair, Bay Area Black Nurses Association

Reygan Cunningham
Senior Partner, California Partnership for Safe Communities

Gloria Harmon, MS
Retired Administrator, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center

Bessanderson McNeil, MPH
Retired Public Health 

Anita Siegel, MPH
Retired Director, Alameda County Public Health Department

Frank Staggers, Jr., MD
Medical Director, Berkeley Addiction Treatment Services Center

Arlene Swinderman, MPA
Program Director, Ethnic Health Institute

The Ethnic Health Institute has developed the following health education materials:

  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Medi-Cal Eligibility

These resources are available in multiple languages including Korean, Vietnamese, Spanish, and Chinese.

If you are interested in accessing these documents, please fill out this request form. 


Stay updated on EHI's work, important community events, and volunteer opportunities. Sign up for our newsletter here.

Check out our previous newsletters below:

January 2020May 2020         
February 2020June 2020
March 2020July 2020
April 2020August 2020


Local Community Outreach

Check out this video featuring our community work.


SMU student provides free blood pressure screening to community member

Community Partnerships

EHI takes pride in being a trusted partner with community organizations. These collaborations are rooted in a common goal to serve our most vulnerable communities.

  • Hypertension and Wellness Sunday: In partnership with various faith-based communities, SMU students and faculty lead health education activities and blood pressure screenings at this annual event held in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
  • Multicultural Wellness Walks: With the East Bay Regional Parks District, EHI brings community members together to connect with natural resources, engage in physical activity, practice stress management, and foster  social interaction into daily living.
Student and community members after completing walking program

Service and Learning

EHI recognizes the importance of service and learning. For SMU students, we are dedicated to providing meaningful learning experiences outside of the classroom. We uphold a dedication to creating continuous learning opportunities for all communities. Our service and learning initiatives include:

  • Steps to Bridging the Gap: In partnership with Alameda County Public Health Department and Roots Community Health Center, SMU students and faculty lead walking programs, providing physical activity education and support for community members managing diabetes.
  • School-Based:  EHI connects SMU with local students to increase awareness of healthcare careers and university programs, support career attainment for local youth, and address the importance of workforce diversity in healthcare. Through panel discussions and other outreach events, SMU community members  provide guidance for pursuing higher education in the healthcare field.
  • Healthcare Professionals Symposium: This  professional development day is offered to external and SMU communities.  This event gathers thought leaders in health and academia to share innovative ideas, research, and best practices for current and future healthcare professionals.
  • Caregivers Symposium: In collaboration with community-based and healthcare organizations, this event provides education, support and resources to meet the needs of family members caring for loved ones. 


SMU students demonstrate brain function activity to high school students

Community Engagement Support

EHI is committed to supporting SMU students, faculty, and staff interested in
engaging with community; which may include getting 
involved with EHI initiatives, exploring community and volunteer opportunities, or brainstorming ideas of how to serve diverse communities. With experience in community collaborations, the EHI team is available to support planning, organizing, and logistics for implementing community engagement eforts. Previous activities include:

  • 99 Minutes of Neuro: In collaboration with the SMU Department of Basic Sciences and Oakland Unified School District, SMU students create and provide presentations and hands-on activities designed to increase brain awareness and function for health pathway high school students.
  • Community Learning Forum: Working with founding SMU faculty to organize, implement, and expand the health lecture series currently held at Allen Temple Baptist Church. This program provides opportunities for SMU faculty to impact community health by providing free health education.

EHI in Action