To address health disparities, Hennepin Healthcare turns to local youth

A young woman holds an ultrasound over a man's chest.
Naomi Teklemariam learned how to use an ultrasound tool at the Black Women with Stethoscopes Youth Summit in Minneapolis on Saturday.
Feven Gerezgiher | MPR News

Naomi Teklemariam, 16, smiled as she peered at the tablet screen displaying the internal organs of the paramedic laying before her. She was at the mobile ultrasound station at Hennepin Healthcare where physicians explained how to assess needed care when responding to emergencies in the field.

Teklemariam thought she was interested in a health career before today, but now she’s sure.

And that was Hennepin Healthcare’s hope.

On Saturday, it hosted the third Black Women with Stethoscopes Youth Summit as part of an initiative to develop a diverse healthcare workforce. It previously held similar summits for young Black men and Latinx youth. This April will be the first summit specifically geared towards Native American youth. 

“We all understand and know the health disparities that we are facing, especially our black and brown communities. The inequities are real and they're very prominent in Minnesota,” said Nneka Sederstrom, PhD, chief health equity officer at Hennepin Healthcare. “We also know from the data that one of the best, easiest, and quickest ways to decrease disparities within our black and brown communities is to have clinicians of the same race and ethnicity take care of those patients.”

At these youth summits, students aged 13 to 18 explore health careers with hands-on experiences. Those include delivering a baby with a simulator, learning to draw blood, doing robotic surgery.

Students also get to meet and learn from a panel of health professionals who look like them. Albert Omboga said that was most helpful for him when he attended Black Men with Stethoscopes in 2021. Now he’s a student volunteer. “It helps people feel better about their chances, knowing there's someone in that field that looks like them that's successful,” he said. 

Omboga, a junior at Woodbury’s East Ridge High School, was later part of Hennepin Healthcare’s inaugural cohort of paid summer interns. He returned as a panelist at Saturday’s youth summit.

“Right now, I'm just focusing on finishing high school. But after that, I'm definitely going to be pre-med,” he said.

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