Sanofi launches new scholarship program to boost diversity in healthcare

Citing the “trust gap” as one of the greatest challenges in global health today, Sanofi announced its new NextGen Scholarship program, a global initiative aimed at getting more people from underrepresented communities—specifically Black and ethnic minority groups, women, people with disabilities and LGBTQ+ communities—into the healthcare profession.

The announcement was made at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 18. NextGen is initially kicking off in five countries—Brazil, France, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S.—and will help with tuition and living costs for 100 students at higher education institutions across the globe. In addition, there will be mentoring, internships and employment opportunities at Sanofi post graduation.

The NextGen Scholarship program is part of Sanofi’s 50 million euro DE&I project, “A Million Conversations,” which aims to increase trust within marginalized groups and healthcare stakeholders by 2030.

“We felt we had an obligation as one of the world's largest health care companies to do something about [the trust gap],” Raj Verma, Sanofi’s chief diversity culture and experience officer, said. “We’ve spent the past nine to 12 months really thinking this through—doing the research, testing our theory, bringing people into the conversation and co-creating something that we felt would make a meaningful impact in society.”

Verma says “A Million Conversations” is built around three pillars: the scholarship is one, and dialogue—fostering conversations with people both within Sanofi and outside and allowing people from marginalized communities to speak directly to the industry about their own experiences, leading to solutions to improve experience and build trust—is the second. The third pillar is about research and policy recommendations to help support global conversations about how to reduce healthcare inequality.

As for the scholarships, each country is in charge of its own plan, as Verma says the local approach makes the most sense in understanding how things work. Sanofi will support and coach when necessary, but ultimately each country’s leader will own the project. That includes the marketing and social media. The goal is really about bringing a more diverse group of people into the Sanofi fold.

“What we're looking for is people who are genuinely interested in a career in healthcare, because that's the pipeline and that that's what's going to be serving our business purpose—bringing people in who can have a long career in healthcare either as doctors, as nurses, as researchers, in digital, in marketing, in communications, that's what we're trying to build,” Verma said. “So we have been very keen to say that this is a global problem, but a local solution.”