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Lakeland internship program aims to increase minority representation in healthcare

NOW: Lakeland internship program aims to increase minority representation in healthcare

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- Spectrum Health Lakeland has introduced a new, six-week summer internship called the GROWTH (Guided Real-World Orientation and Work Training at the Hospital) program, aimed at addressing the shortage of African American and Latinx students pursuing healthcare.

Officials at Lakeland say representation of the African American and Latinx communities in the medical field is lacking.

“Often they only see a very limited portfolio of job opportunities and this program is designed to let them see all kinds of things – and things they probably never even imagined,” said Lynn Todman, Vice-President for Health Equity.

Despite being in the second week of the program, it was developed only a few weeks ago — as we have seen calls for racial equality nationwide.

“We have a shortage of African American and Latinx people in middle management and in many of the departments across the health system. We want to disperse African Americans and Latinx people throughout the organization and this program is intended to help facilitate that,” said Todman.

While anyone from the African American or Latinx community can be considered for the program, organizers say they did focus on a specific group of students.

“Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, the BRIDGE Academy,” said Todman. “And we asked them to identify the young adults who they thought would be most appropriate for the program, so we actually left a lot of that decision making in the hands of our community partners.”

One of the students recommended was Tekeidra Masters. She’s a recent Benton Harbor High School graduate who was also named the Boys and Girls Club’s “Youth of the Year."

She has always dreamed of being a doctor.

“I want to be a neurosurgeon, we always used to visit the hospitals for field trips and I was just so amazed at what they did,” said Masters.

But until Lakeland’s program, she wasn’t exposed to opportunities to learn more about the medical field.

“I always used to hear about my friends wanting to be rappers and singers, but I noticed that I didn’t really have enough friends who wanted to be the lawyers or doctors in the world. When I used to ask questions like, ‘Why don’t you want to be a doctor?’ ‘Oh, because I’ve never experienced it, I don’t know what it’s like,’” said Masters. “These opportunities to be an intern or to be in the hospital and be able to experience what it is that you want to be, you don’t really get it — and this community needed that experience. In the end, we could have more people be doctors because they know what it’s like to be a doctor.”

When asked what emotions she’s feeling just in the first week, three words come to mind: Nervous, relieved and grateful.

“Nervous because like I said, I already knew I wanted to be a doctor but I didn’t really know what I was walking into,” said Masters. “But I’m also relieved because it’s everything that I want to be, so it confirmed my dream job. To be able to get that experience, I’m grateful for it. A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to be an intern, so I’m grateful and relieved I got this opportunity.”

Even though this was a first-of-its kind program for Spectrum Health Lakeland, they say they do plan to continue to provide opportunities like this for local students.

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