Hennepin Healthcare fosters shift toward more representative future workforce
Some of the youngest attendees of Hennepin Healthcare’s first ‘Black Youth with Stethoscopes Summit’ know exactly what they want to be when they grow up.
At 12 years old, Hennon Geletu “want[s] to go into dentistry.”
For Taylor-Marie Campbell, also 12 years old, it’s between a “pediatrician or a radiologist.”
Hennepin Healthcare has been holding related summits to foster interest in the industry among kids of color for a couple of years, according to Dr. Nneka Sederstrom, Hennepin Healthcare’s Chief Health Equity Officer. Saturday marked the “first iteration of joining men and women together,” she said, adding, “And I think this is our eighth version of the youth summits.”
Behind the stethoscopes and signature embroidered doctors’ coats, the summits signify a shift in the industry toward a more representative upcoming generation of doctors.
“I’ve always asked a question of, ‘How many of you have seen a person who looks like you in your clinic or at your doctor’s office?'” Dr. Sederstrom shared. She says that out of roughly 600 kids who have gone through the program, “only one so far that’s been able to raise their hand.”
Her poll was representative of the nationwide statistics. Less than 6% of doctors in the U.S. are Black, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
“Yeah. It’s pretty noticeable,” 12-year-old Geletu reacted.
Asked why he thinks it’s important that changes and that doctors better represent their patients, he said, “Because it might help people of color to feel more comfortable around them and tell them more about themselves.”
For that to happen, Dr. Sederstrom said that first, more kids of color have to be told and physically see the medical field as an option for them.
“Every kid, at kindergarten, is asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ And there are many who may say doctors,” she said.
“But if the system doesn’t protect that and make sure to support that, that gets taken away from them as they grew up, because they lose people actually telling them, ‘This is still an opportunity for you,’ and then if they can’t see it around them, then that reinforces the belief that ‘This is not an opportunity for me.'”
Sederstrom considers herself lucky to have grown up in a family of physicians, but she was the only Black woman she remembers along her path to becoming a doctor, something she wants to improve for the next generation.
“We believe in you, and we will be there to support you your entire journey, to make sure you know that you can be anything in this hospital,” she concluded with hopes that events like the summits are the beginning of a long history of expanded opportunity.
“It makes me feel pride and joy that people do care about all races, and they do want us to succeed,” Campbell said.
She and Geletu plan to be cycle-breakers, and they have enough confidence and care to spread to their peers.
“Just follow your dreams,” Geletu concluded. “And don’t let anybody get in your way.”