Community Health Worker Academy

Providence partnered with Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU) in 2018 to design a workforce development program for entry level health care workers. The goal of the program is to create long-term job placements for Community Health Workers in hospital and clinical settings.

The Community Health Worker (CHW) Academy is a paid internship that consists of a five-week standards-based curriculum, followed by on the job training in hospitals and clinics throughout Los Angeles. CDU teaches the five-week curriculum and provides continuing education sessions to strengthen the interns’ care management skills. Providence recruits hospital and community clinic partners for the job placements, recruits CHWs for the Academy, and manages their paid internship experience, with particular attention to mentoring and coaching the CHWs while they are in their field placement site. Providence also provides ongoing technical assistance to clinics and hospitals to assess organizational readiness and successfully integrate CHWs into the health care team. 

Our first cohort graduated in July, 2021 and we are proud to share that every single graduate received a full-time job offer when they completed the program. Our second cohort will graduate in February, 2022.

Need for a Community Health Worker Academy

The Community Health Worker Academy develops an essential workforce that addresses two key needs.

  1. The Community Health Workers trained by the Academy provide an essential bridge between health care providers and communities. CHWs often come from the same communities of those they serve and understand their patients' lived experiences. They are vital to effective communication and understanding between health care providers and patients.
  2. Community Health Workers typically do not have access to formal training or opportunities for further career development in the health care industry; this program aims to change that. The CHW Academy creates a pipeline of trained CHWs who have the core competencies to work and grow within health care settings, while also providing technical support to the health care organizations to successfully integrate CHWs as part of their health care team. 

Community Health Workers in Clinical Settings

The CHW Academy builds the capacity of health care organizations across Los Angeles to integrate CHWs into their workplaces. This includes help with the design of job descriptions, assessing organizational readiness, appropriate onboarding, and supervision for CHWs to thrive in these work environments as part of a health care team. As part of the team, CHWs enrich the quality of care provided to patients. They share a common language and cultural experience with clients, and many have faced the same barriers, stigmas and fears in accessing health care. CHWs help patients navigate resources such as CalFresh, Covered CA, and Medi-Cal and improve access to preventive and medical care services, avoiding the use of costly emergency care in nonemergency situations.   


In 2019, CDU convened a group of national and regional experts to participate in National Experts Advisory meetings to discuss the best way to develop a CHW training curriculum with a focus on clinical settings. Participants included Academy administrators from Providence and CDU, current CHWs, academic allies with expertise on CHW research and advocacy, health care administrators, and CDU students.

The resulting standards-based core curriculum for the Providence-CDU CHW Academy is guided by the Community Health Worker Consensus Project (C3 Project), which identifies a CHW’s key roles and skills. The curriculum is comprised of ten modules, which span three key area of focus:

  1. Establishing a professional CHW identity and competencies. 
  2. Outlining the context, process and key actors in health care settings with whom CHWs will engage.
  3. Identifying the main forces that shape the health and health care outcomes of patients, families, and communities. 

CDU recently published an article with an overview of the curriculum.

Program Partners and Funding

Funding from Providence, CDU, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development was used to launch the program. Clinical sites where the interns are placed include Providence, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Dignity Health Northridge Hospital, Torrance Memorial Medical Center, San Fernando Community Health Center, Harbor Community Health Center, Venice Family Clinic, Westside Family Health Center, and Behavioral Health Services. We continue to add new partner sites and to seek funding to support the program.  


  • “If it comes to you, take the opportunity. It’s a great experience. The Academy doesn’t only teach you about the CHW world, but also helps on a personal level. I’ve never been in a program where they talk about bettering yourself and taking care of yourself, since that will make you better in the workplace. The Academy was a godsend to me because it’s helping me grow in my career and personally. I’m going to see how far I can go to help as many people as I can.” – Kristy T., Cohort 1. Read more about Kristy’s story
  • “Our intern was assigned to be the navigator for the highly complex and challenging Recuperative Care Center for those experiencing post-hospital homelessness and bridging help for those with mental health needs. She was immediately responsible for achieving specific grant targets and milestones due within eight weeks. By engaging staff of multiple organizations, she learned data-tracking, appointment scheduling, outreach and engagement with a large healthcare facility and ultimately, successfully linking the targeted type and number of clients to the clinic, in the desired timeframe!” – Heidi L., chief operating officer, San Fernando Community Health Center.
  • “The (CHW Academy) training really covers so much and gave me so much more knowledge and tools. Everything I’ve had to do so far in my job at the clinic was covered in the Academy. The role playing really encourages people to come out of our comfort zone and practice all the skills we were learning in the Academy. All of the skills and techniques, like active listening, I learned in the CHWA and I’m applying now in my job.” – Teresa M., Cohort 1. Read more about Teresa’s story


Thank you to the Los Angeles Business Journal for honoring Providence as the 2021 Educational/Institutional Program of the Year for our Providence-Charles R. Drew University Community Health Worker Academy. Click here for more information about the award.

Charles R. Drew University was awarded the St. Joseph the Worker Award in 2021, recognizing the University’s contribution to the Community Health Worker Academy. This award is given to a nonprofit organization that demonstrates an ongoing commitment to creating a lasting impact on the health of their communities.  

For More Information

For more information about the CHW Academy or to apply for our next cohort, contact us.