An institution of Emory’s size and influence has a social mandate to support its surrounding community. With Emory’s 2018 annexation into the city of Atlanta, the University is taking laudable steps to strengthen its connection with DeKalb County by leveraging faculty expertise.
In partnership with the DeKalb County School District, Emory will open six health clinics in local schools. A settlement between DeKalb Schools and Atlanta Public Schools (APS) over Emory’s annexation into Atlanta means DeKalb will receive half of the revenue from the annexed area for five years. DeKalb will use that tax revenue – $1.35 million in total – to open the proposed health centers. The county will partner with Veda Johnson, a Marcus Professor in General Academics and Pediatrics at Emory School of Medicine, to build and operate the clinics.
The move by DeKalb and Emory to open the clinics with funds won in the settlement is a strong step toward improving the University’s relationship with the surrounding community; it demonstrates one of the financial benefits of Atlanta’s annexation of Emory.
In the last decade, the number of in-school health centers in Georgia has soared. Before 2013, there were few centers like the ones Emory plans to establish in the state. Now there are dozens, including five throughout APS and clinics located at four DeKalb elementary schools.
Emory’s partnership with DeKalb is significant in that, as one of Georgia’s most populous counties, DeKalb’s new school-based health centers could serve as a model for other counties and school districts throughout the state It also means that Emory must continue to support Johnson and DeKalb County to ensure that local children receive the best possible care into the future.
As Emory works with DeKalb to open the clinics, the University must carefully evaluate the impact of the in-school health centers. In the short term, these centers will give many children in DeKalb better access to quality health care. However, it is unclear how the health centers will receive funding after the current arrangement ends in five years. Sustained funding will be necessary to ensure the longevity and proper function of these facilities.
Johnson and others have channeled the funds from the settlement into a meaningful project that draws on Emory’s unique strengths as a medical powerhouse. The health centers represent a degree of connection between Emory and DeKalb County much more significant than an impersonal check. After Emory is fully annexed into the city of Atlanta, it should continue to invest in the surrounding community regardless of county borders. Through consultation and vigilant planning, Emory should share its wealth of knowledge with DeKalb County officials in order to provide generations of DeKalb children with the quality health care they desperately need.
The Editorial Board is composed of Zach Ball, Devin Bog, Jake Busch, Meredith McKelvey, Andrew Kliewer, Boris Niyonzima, Nick Pernas and Kimia Tabatabaei.