Students get an inside look at health care jobs at LMH academy

For the third summer in a row, LMH Health welcomed local high school juniors and seniors to take a peek behind the scenes, participate in executive meetings and shadow health care providers through its Summer Leadership Academy.

The academy, a collaboration with the Lawrence school district and the LMH Health Foundation, is a paid eight-week mentorship program that introduces high school students to careers in health care. It focuses on students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in the health care field.

“Part of why we have inequity in health care is due to the lack of providers of color to care for our communities of color,” said Dr. Walter Ingram, an LMH Health physician and LMH Health Foundation board member. “Programs like the academy help bring students of color into the health care field and start to bridge that gap.”

Erica Hill, who is the director of health equity, inclusion and diversity at LMH Health and the director of finance and strategic initiatives at the LMH Health Foundation, led the development of the academy in 2019. She oversees the program each year with help from Laura Ashley, LMH Health employee relations and engagement specialist, and Nicole Olson, an LMH Health Foundation assistant.

“The Leadership Academy is a comprehensive program that creates a learning culture and promotes personal and professional development for our scholars, all while being surrounded by caring adults who want to see them succeed,” Hill said. “The purpose of the Academy is to provide an opportunity for students to learn and explore. Often times, it’s a lack of opportunity, not ability, that is the barrier to success.”

The students’ experience at the academy includes one-on-one mentoring by senior leadership executives at LMH Health. There are also weekly field trips, workshops and trainings, on-site personal and professional development opportunities and volunteer opportunities. At the conclusion of the program, students receive a scholarship toward their post-secondary education, funded by gifts to the LMH Health Foundation.

“Donor support helps us address inequity in health care,” said Rebecca Smith, LMH Health’s vice president of strategic communications and the LMH Health Foundation’s executive director. “As a mentor, I can see firsthand the traction that Erica is creating through the LMH Health Summer Leadership Academy.”

Nine participants were selected this year: Chais Chickaway, Unique Hall, LaDerrick Reeves, Ahnie Scott, Jesse Self and Zoe Symons from Lawrence High School; and Gabi Carttar, Evan Darrow and Ta’Mya Douglas from Free State High School.

“Before this summer, I didn’t really know what health care involved,” Self said. “The academy has been a really great opportunity. I’ve gotten to do a lot of things really early — things that 90% of kids don’t get to do yet — like shadowing doctors or getting to make connections around the hospital and community.”

Some of the students say that their experiences in the academy have helped them decide what to study in college or possibly choose as a career.

“The academy has exposed me to so many opportunities I didn’t know existed,” Carttar said. “Being around LMH Health has made me realize there are a lot of good careers that could be rewarding or interesting. It definitely helped me want to take first steps like studying biology in college.”

Chickaway said she thought the academy would help her decide if she wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. After shadowing providers at OrthoKansas, she is interested in studying to be a physical therapist or athletic trainer.

“I was able to see many things at OrthoKansas like X-rays and casts being removed,” Chickaway said. “The athletic trainer I shadowed gave me some great books to read and get a preview of what I’d study in college.”

Prior to starting the academy, Reeves knew he had an interest in the medical field and had already earned a CNA certification.

“Shadowing anyone who works with patients is what I’ve enjoyed most,” Reeves said. “I’ve especially enjoyed physical therapy, where there are a lot of older people — that’s the demographic I’d like to work with in the future.”

Learning leadership skills is another main focus of the academy. The students were each paired with a mentor from LMH Health’s senior leadership team and joined them for meetings and events.

Carttar said that “on a day-to-day basis, my favorite thing has been building a relationship with my mentor,” and that “getting to make new connections is what makes every day fun.

Self said he’s been able to learn a lot about leadership from the people like Hill who are leading the academy itself, too.

“This academy promotes leadership and teaches how to become a leader,” Self said. “Having someone right there, constantly displaying leadership, is great to observe. That’s one of the best parts — being with a leader while learning how to be a leader.”

— Courtney Bernard is a development coordinator for LMH Health Foundation. LMH Health is a major sponsor of Lawrence Journal-World’s health section.


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