There are so many possibilities – so many opportunities.
I grew up in rural South Carolina in a town of no more than eight thousand people. Neither of my parents finished high school. I am the youngest of seven children. Several of my siblings have gone on to careers in education and this has helped ground me in important concepts like math and science.
I am thinking specifically of two of my sisters as math and chemistry teachers. I remember being fascinated by math and science, because of the impact they had at home on their careers. It unknowingly inspired me to understand that I could explore that possibility, too, because I’d seen my sisters, capable women of color, women of color, take their chances.
When you get older and don’t see others who seem to work in certain professions, it stands to reason that you can’t imagine yourself working in that profession either. It can be a vicious cycle. The more reason why it is critical we inspire our youth in their early development.
I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Dale Okorododu, founder of the Black Men in White Coats initiative, when I was on the faculty at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. We share a similar passion for addressing the concern that many young black people don’t see themselves on the path to success. How do we instill this confidence in them? Dr. Dale often says that children “should be able to see something.” promote it Something It often requires education and guidance from a young age.
My medical school mentor, Dr. Harry Wright, opened up a very different world of possibilities for me. “How do you create a vision? How do you lead?” he would ask me. It inspired me to help focus on reaching the underprivileged and marginalized populations who need it most. I am proud to work for an organization with a similar approach.
On March 25th, WellSpan Health will host the first ever Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit in Pennsylvania, here in York. The Summit will be held at William Penn High School and will offer students in grades 7-12 a full day of exploration of the healthcare profession. Parents and caregivers are also invited to participate in sessions aimed at illuminating medical career paths and child mental health care. Attendance is free to all and open to students throughout South Central Pennsylvania to inspire young people to consider careers in healthcare by laying the foundation for success through mentorship and networking.
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At WellSpan Health, our culture of inclusivity plays a key role in informing us of awareness to improve the health of our communities, especially those that are underserved. In the short time since I joined the organization, I’ve been moved by conversations about thoughtful planning to reach marginalized groups who live across our counties. It also aligns with WellSpan’s organizational mission as these priorities define what it means to be a trusted partner both while in our care and in community support.
As I settle into my new community here in South Central Pennsylvania, I think of my daughter who is a medical resident at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore. Just like my experiences with my sisters and the influences of math and science in my youth, medicine was like second nature to my daughter because she had been around it her whole life. My daughter sees the world very differently than I did in South Carolina as not many kids in my town had the chance to see a black doctor. It didn’t exist, so we never considered it a possibility. With the upcoming Youth Summit, we hope to help unlock that kind of inspiration for hundreds of kids across our region.
If you are a student or family member making an impact on young people’s lives, you can find out more and sign up for the Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit in York on March 25th, please visit Summit of young black men in white coats – WellSpan Health to learn more. We welcome students in grades 7-12, of all genders and genders, and there is an education track for parents and carers too.
Dr. Kenneth Rogers is Vice President of WellSpan Health and Chief Medical Officer for Behavioral Health.