A partnership between Greater Lansing’s largest educational and medical institutions survived the global COVID-19 pandemic with one goal in mind: diversifying the healthcare industry.
Piloted within the diverse Lansing school district with the goal of training women of color to become the health care workers of tomorrow, Becoming Visible was reintroduced earlier this month by offering free sports physicals on Aug. 2 at the high school Sexton.
Students at both the high school and college levels were helping to gain vitals about physics and were aware that, if they stuck with it, they could one day naturally help eliminate racial bias in the health care field. .
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“The way we wanted to marry Becoming Visible with the free sports clinic was to have our girls really volunteer to see community public health in action,” said Becoming Visible co-chair Cheryl Celestin.
Celestin, of Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, and Loretta Osborn of Lansing Community College came to prominence in 2018. They were inspired by a national initiative to get girls of color into health care and brought together Michigan State University, Lansing Community College. Sparrow Health System and McLaren Greater Lansing to create the program for interested high school students.
About 200 black girls have attended the organization’s conferences since its inception. Becoming Visible held in-person conferences in 2018 and 2019 and switched to virtual events when the pandemic hit to explain pathways to becoming doctors and nurses.
“Because we all saw the need to engage what we call underrepresented minorities and learn about health, allied health and medical careers,” Celestin said. “And then to address issues related to unconscious bias and inequalities in terms of health and well-being.”
Monique Smith said her daughter Josie joined Becoming Visible to get a serious look at a career field that piques her interest. Josie, a freshman at East Lansing High School, recently volunteered at Sexton’s free sports physical event.
“She’s a debutante, a Jack and Jill teenager,” Smith said, mentioning one of the mentoring efforts her daughter participates in. “But as far as the program goes, she connected with the head at MSU, but it hasn’t started. yet.”
If Josie remains interested in Becoming Visible, she can join other participating high school students in scrubbing and donning medical equipment.
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Becoming visible has already impressed others concerned about various health care workers.
The Lansing school district is planning to create a career and technical education curriculum for the 2023-24 school year with the help of Becoming Visible, said Nicole Millsap, the district’s director of career and technical education.
County officials have not indicated where the program will be located.
“At this high school, we’re going to have three career paths if you will,” Millsap said. “So one of those will be skilled trades, manufacturing, and then the third will be health sciences, which is where this collaboration with Becoming Visible fits perfectly.”
She added that students can build lasting connections with medical professionals that can prove beneficial in students’ personal lives, whether for health, personal or professional reasons.
Students have told Millsap that they have opened up to the medical professionals they have met through Becoming Visible.
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“Many students have let me know how important that representation is and that ‘I never would have considered a career in medicine’ until this event or this exposure or connection with this person,” she said.
Sparrow and McLaren’s role in Becoming Visible fuels Millsap’s hopes that the school district can one day provide a diverse pool of candidates for two of the region’s largest health care providers.
According to the 2020 Michigan State Department of Health and Human Services Nurse Survey, nearly 90% of employed registered nurses identified as white and 68% of licensed practical nurses identified as white.
“It helps young women of color achieve their aspirations to work in healthcare through events, outreach and mentorship programs,” said Lori Simon, director of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at Sparrow.
The Capital Area College Access Network has participated in previous conferences to educate families about the cost of higher education and how to make it more affordable, Celestin said.
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