NEW YORK — Weber Shandwick has created a new fellowship for Black undergrads as a means of diversifying its healthcare practice.

The HealthFellows program, which is built primarily for STEM-focused Black students, has been developed with the Ron Brown Scholar Program, a nonprofit focused on leadership development for Black scholars.

There are seven students in the 32-week pilot program, who will learn fundamental skills in communications, marketing, digital, creative and client management. Participants also will engage in real-world client work.

Weber Shandwick hopes to hire 80% of participants once they complete the program.

Inaugural class members are Asha Yearwood (Northwestern), Brianna Freeman (Vanderbilt), Brooke Solomon (Howard), Harmony Arungwa (University of Pittsburgh), Jahnea Pressley (Temple), Jonathan Goshu (Brown) and Jordan Richardson (Howard).

While Weber has other fellowship programs (the agency and RBSP have worked together for more than a decade), leaders said the need to diversify healthcare PR is particularly acute given the wide range of populations they need to reach.

“As a leader in this space, it’s essential that we set an example for the industry, showing these talented scholars how their love of science can fuel a career in communications," said Jamie Dowd, president of Weber Shandwick Health Americas. “Representation is critical in healthcare, given the many disparities that exist for underrepresented groups. Our staff needs to reflect the audiences we seek to influence, and developing this expanded talent pipeline is one step toward doing so.”

Judith Harrison, Weber Shandwick’s chief DE&I officer, said, “After a long history of working together, we saw an opportunity to match Ron Brown Scholars, many of whom focus their studies in STEM areas, together with our Healthcare practice, which drives science-based communications for many of the world’s leading health and pharma companies. We intentionally designed this program both to continue to build our pipeline of Black talent and to inspire the Fellows to explore a healthcare communications career.”