A 2019 study conducted in collaboration with researchers at the University of Minnesota found that black newborns are more likely to survive when cared for by black doctors after birth. In Minnesota, there is only one black neonatologist in the entire state, says Dr. Nneka Sederstrom, health equity manager at Hennepin Healthcare.
“If we only have one black doctor to take care of the sickest of the sick in childhood, how many black babies have suffered and died because of it?” Sederstrom said in an interview with MSR. “That’s a statistic we need to change.”
Sederstrom notably addresses health inequities by training young people from historically marginalized communities for careers in health care. In her role at Hennepin Healthcare, she created the Talent Garden, a series of initiatives “to inspire and support historically excluded young people”.
The first project was to organize youth summits for students aged 12 to 18. The first of those summits, “Black Men with Stethoscopes,” Sederstrom called a huge success with about 80 young black men in attendance last December.
It’s called the Talent Garden “because it’s a picture of what it takes to build an award-winning garden,” Sederstrom explained. “Like everything you need to do to build an award-winning garden, we need to do for our young people to create the talent we need to run our hospital.”
She continued, “We’ve complained about not having enough talent of color to hire at the hospital – we’re always looking outside. We have conversations about recruiting at HBCUs or in big cities that matter. more people of color Why not just grow our own [talent]? Why do we always have to look elsewhere?
“We sit in a community with a whole bunch of people of color who use us as their primary source of care. Why don’t we just teach them to take care of their own? says Sederstrom.
On April 30, Hennepin Healthcare hosted a second summit titled “Black Women with Stethoscopes.” This event and a second scheduled for May 15 were oversold.
During the six-hour event on Hennepin Healthcare’s downtown campus, 80 students participated in hands-on activities and engagement opportunities with Black doctors, dentists, nurses and other healthcare professionals.
There are three areas of learning. In one of them, the students practiced giving birth with a birth simulator and operating with a robotic control system. In the “ear, nose, throat” area, students filled cavities on 3D printed teeth. In another, they learned basic assessment tools.
“You don’t get that in a high school science class,” said James Peters, health equity program development manager at Hennepin Healthcare. “Our design intent is to make young people so excited about having a future, if not in medicine, science, technology, engineering and math.”
Participants receive lab coats personalized with their name. Peters said it’s a tradition in medicine to receive a lab coat at various stages of learning and professional accreditation, and the program’s hope is that this lab coat is just the first. a long series that participants will receive.
Betty Tekle, a high school student who moved to the United States from Eritrea three years ago, attended the April 30 summit already interested in dentistry. She said one of the biggest benefits of the summit was hearing from her panel of black vendors, who candidly shared their struggles and how they overcame obstacles.
“It was special for us as black women to know what we can do and feel accepted in pursuing careers in healthcare,” Tekle said. “And knowing that there are a lot of women who have done this and we can do it too.”
The summit was held with the help of 50 volunteers from across the county’s hospital system. Dr. Elizabeth Alabi, clinical director of the outpatient clinic and the only black OB-GYN at Hennepin Healthcare, said she jumped at the chance to contribute.
“I love these opportunities to be, like, ‘No, not only can you do this, but you should do this. We need you,'” Alabi said. one to look after us.
Alabi added: “I think if we’re really going to have an impact on change, it’s actually the steps that are part of it. Often we spin our wheels wondering how we can make a difference, but it’s things like that. Because by bringing diverse backgrounds and representation into the system, it will impact change.
To further support student development, Hennepin Healthcare is continuing programming with a paid summer physician shadowing internship for students 16 and older.
“We are a county hospital; we don’t have a lot of money. We’re not a big private player in the game,” Sederstrom said. “[But] you don’t need millions of dollars thrown at the problem to fight racism. Their programming has been supported by sponsorships from 3M, Delta Dental, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Starkey Hearing Labs.
“You just need people to make good decisions and do the right thing for the people in front of them. And teaching these kids, opening our doors to them and letting them come and do the things that we do every day, doesn’t take much to make that happen,” Sederstrom continued.
The plan is to hold similar events for Asian, Latino, Native American and LGBTQ youth “because we don’t want anyone to feel left out in this space,” Sederstrom said. “If you’re marginalized, then we try to make sure you see yourself as a doctor, as a nurse practitioner, as a hospital administrator, or as a financial manager, or as an architect.
“There are all kinds of jobs that make this building work, and we want to cultivate the talent for all of that.”
For more information, visit www.hennepinhealthcare.org/talentgarden.
Feven Gerezgiher is a Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder Contributing Writer.