Partnering For Equity In Chicago Health Care Delivery

Rush University and IIT Institute of Design announce a collaboration focused on an innovative, community-centered approach to health care delivery



By Howard J. Lee

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Rush-ID Initiative

CHICAGO—September 9, 2021—The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a major problem regarding access to health care across the world: There is inequity embedded in how health care is delivered. This is an especially urgent and complex problem on Chicago’s West and South sides, where Rush University Medical Center (RUMC) and IIT Institute of Design (ID) are located. In an unprecedented multi-year partnership, Rush University Graduate College and the ID Action Lab are collaborating on an innovative, community-centered approach to refining a health care model focused on equity.

“We’ve seen thousands of deaths due to COVID-19, and we’ve seen how racism has intensified the effects of the pandemic. It’s time to take action against the factors that led us here,” says Illinois State Senator Mattie Hunter (Third District). “The Rush-ID collaboration will make real progress toward equitable, people-centered care, and I support these vital efforts to make our local, regional, and national health care systems more equitable.”

“By examining world-class medicine through the lenses of human-centered design and equity, we can develop ways to deliver care when and where it is needed, improving the health of the individual and the community,” says Andrew Bean, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate College, the Judd and Marjorie Weinberg Presidential Professor, and interim vice provost for research at Rush University. “I look forward to working with ID to find solutions to equitable care through education and research.”

Together, ID and Rush will design, test, and implement high-value care that communities want and will use. Rush builds on decades of work addressing the injustice of health care disparities, evidenced by the recent investment in the Rush BMO Institute for Health Equity, and ID brings participatory and human-centered design approaches, hallmarks of its Action Lab, as well as a commitment to navigating paths to a more equitable future.

Associate Research Professor Kim Erwin, MDes, leads the collaboration at ID. Erwin has founded multiple centers to bring design to health care in Chicago. She leverages her years of experience applying design methods to the challenges of health care delivery in diverse clinical settings and patient populations. Assistant Professor Santosh Basapur, Ph.D., leads the collaboration at Rush. Basapur is the director of design at Rush University and is an experienced human-centered health systems integration researcher and design educator.

“It’s time for a paradigm shift in the way we view and provide health care,” says Carlos Teixeira, Charles L. Owen Professor of Design at ID and director of the Action Lab, in which ID faculty address today’s most challenging systemic problems. “This is the right problem to move on right now, and we have the right team—an unparalleled group of health care and design experts.”

Part of a suite of Action Lab initiatives, this collaboration will demonstrate the power of cutting-edge design approaches while leveraging Rush’s excellence in medicine and leadership in innovative and inclusive health care.

Priorities, based on interviews with community members, include:

  • Creating accessible and convenient primary care that moves people out of the emergency room
  • Employing local residents as part of a neighborhood pipeline of health care workers
  • Standardizing metrics that identify health issues on a neighborhood level

The graduate schools at ID and Rush University will offer courses, seminars, and events in the coming months for students, clinicians, and executives. Sign up here and select “Action Lab” to learn more and receive findings.

Virtual Summit: Equitable Primary Care in the Community

Tuesday, September 28, 8–9:30 a.m. CT

Register on Eventbrite

A panel of experts will launch the Rush-IIT Institute of Design Action Lab project on equitable health care. Panelists with direct experience in the community or designing community programs will discuss the challenges of primary care in Chicago’s most at-risk communities, including what’s missing from primary care today and ways to build community trust.



  • Kim Jay, senior community health worker consultant and trainer, Sinai Urban Health Institute
  • Angela Moss, assistant dean of faculty practice, College of Nursing at Rush University, and director of Rush’s nurse-managed community clinics
  • Chris Rudd, clinical professor of community-driven design, IIT Institute of Design, and founder, ChiByDesign
  • Leana Lopez, director of behavioral health and community programs, Medical Home Network