LMH program lets students explore health care careers

LMH Health welcomed six local high school students to participate in its fourth annual Summer Leadership Academy this year.

The Summer Leadership Academy is a paid eight-week mentorship program that introduces high school students to careers in health care. It’s a collaboration with the Lawrence school district, Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence and the LMH Health Foundation, and it is intentional about diversity and providing opportunity to students from a variety of backgrounds.

“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 that want to see them succeed,” said Erica Hill, director of health equity, inclusion and diversity at LMH Health and director of finance and strategic initiatives at the LMH Health Foundation. “The purpose of the academy is to provide an opportunity for students to learn, explore and make professional connections.”

Hill led the development and implementation of the academy in 2019 and oversees the program each year with help from LMH Health Foundation assistant Nicole Olson.

“Our community has students that may not have access to resources and opportunities outside of the classroom to learn about leadership and their future career — this is why centering equity is important,” Hill said. “We created the academy to bridge the opportunity gap and build teams that reflect the diverse patients we care for.”

This year, the students’ experience included:

• Hands-on experience with hospital executives

• Shadowing health care jobs, including nursing, physical therapy and pathology

• College and career coaching

• Volunteer service opportunities

• Field trips to community organizations including the Treatment and Recovery Center of Douglas County, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, the Lawrence Public Library and the Boys & Girls Club

At the conclusion of the program this past week, the students each received a scholarship from the LMH Health Foundation.

Six participants were selected this year: Olakunle Akinniyi, Maya Berry, Olivia Nunez and Christopher Oral from Lawrence High School; Jada Fowler from Free State High School; and Zane Okoya from the Lawrence Virtual School.

“It was a good introduction into the medical field,” said Oral, who hopes to become a trauma surgeon. “I had shadowing opportunities that let me see the practical application of medicine. The academy was a good experience to make sure I am on the right path.”

Okoya recently earned her CNA certification and said her career goal is likely to become a family physician. She expressed how much she valued the mentor relationships and connections she made during the summer program.

“Consistently throughout the program, each mentor expressed their care and dedication,” Okoya said. “They were willing to answer questions and helped us understand. In all aspects of the academy, there is a significant amount of care.”

Akinniyi said he applied to the academy to learn leadership skills. He plans to study political science and hopes to become a diplomat with the U.S. State Department.

“For me, it’s all about leadership and business skills,” he said. “Although I am not planning to go into the medical field, the leadership skills I’ve learned from this experience will reflect in any area I go into.”

Community members have made generous financial gifts to the program over the years. Hill said donations to the LMH Health Foundation have helped continue and enhance the program.

“There are not many programs of this caliber and with this kind of impact in other districts in Kansas,” said Lawrence school district Superintendent Anthony Lewis. “It is a true collaborative community investment in our student leaders. Just as our district wants to grow its own teachers, other businesses and organizations in our community should be thinking about building a pipeline from our schools to their future workforce.”

The academy program has only been around for four years, but Hill said that LMH Health is already seeing its benefits. LMH Health has hired some of the academy graduates, several of whom work at the new LMH Health West Campus.

“Many of the students continue to reach out for letters of recommendation — and having a letter written by hospital executives sets them apart,” Hill said. “Without this program, these students may not have received this kind of leadership experience. The academy’s purpose is to provide experiences to change beliefs and positively impact lives.”

— Courtney Bernard is the development coordinator for the LMH Health Foundation.


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.