Lab coats, stethoscopes and hungry young minds filled Hennepin Healthcare’s Clinic & Specialty Center on Saturday, April 15, for the American Indian Youth with Stethoscopes Youth Summit. The event was a day of listening to and learning from healthcare professionals, as well as entertainment from traditional dancers and drummers for young people ages 12-18 who’ve expressed an interest in healthcare careers.
Sixty students were among the attendees who represented 29 tribal affiliations from Minnesota and Wisconsin. Each young person received a lab coat embroidered with their name and tribal affiliation. The American Indian Youth with Stethoscopes Youth Summit is part of the Hennepin Healthcare Talent Garden, a series of initiatives designed to introduce historically excluded youth and young adults to careers in healthcare. At the event, young people engaged in hands-on activities using real medical equipment and met and heard from American Indian healthcare professionals. One of those professionals was Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute (HHRI) Investigator Dr. Casey Dorr, a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
The American Indian communities have honored traditions of caring for others. Dr. Thomas Wyatt, senior medical director of Emergency Services at Hennepin Healthcare said the Youth Summit is a vital event for the attendees, reminding us of the importance to have more American Indian representation in healthcare for generations to come. Because of this, Dr. Wyatt said the Youth Summit is an important steppingstone for aspiring healthcare professionals, preparing them to provide care for their communities.
“An event like this where we bring in youth to interact with American Indian doctors, nurses, dentists and other healthcare professionals is incredibly important,” Dr. Wyatt said. “Our patients at Hennepin Healthcare and across the nation have shared they want more culturally competent care. They want to see more providers and healers that look like them,” he added. “They also want them to have the same lived experiences and that they come from the same community.”
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has shared eye-opening data. According to the AAMC’s “Diversity in Medicine: Facts and Figures 2019” report, American Indians and Alaskan Natives represent less than one-half percent of all active physicians in the United States. Additionally, using a database of 30 million profiles and verifying the estimates for accuracy against the U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics and current job openings, the career website Zippia estimates that only 1.1 percent of American Indians work as healthcare providers in the U.S. Closer to home, American Indians reflect the national percentage of all physicians in the Twin Cities, although according to the Minnesota Department of Health, they make up more than 12 percent of the population in the eleven-county Minneapolis – St. Paul metro area.
Hennepin Healthcare’s Youth Summits are looking to improve these stark statistics. The events are providing enriching experiences with hands-on learning activities, including dentistry, ultrasound, dermatology and pathology. The summits are providing a precious and purposeful pathway for tomorrow’s physicians and nurses.
“I’ve really enjoyed the simulation because my goal is to go into RN nursing or cardiology,” said Ilona Delaney, of the Red Lake Nation and a senior at Rosemount High School. “The simulation area focused more on RN nursing and I really enjoyed it,” she added. “My mom worked in the medical field and she now has medical issues. I feel that I’ll be able to help her.”
“I’ve really liked the drawing blood training and getting a stethoscope,” said Nenookaassi Poltra, of the White Earth Band Nation and senior at Mahnomen High School. “It’s very important to get hands-on experiences because then you’ll have an idea of what you’re going to be doing in the future. I want to go into travel nursing,” she said.
As American Indian youth continue to navigate their future career paths, the Youth Summits and other Talent Garden programs are vital and welcoming ways for them to enter the Hennepin Healthcare system.
“This is our future workforce; our future doctors and pharmacists.” said Dr. Ajay Israni, HHRI President and nephrologist with Hennepin Healthcare. “The Youth Summit event is a great opportunity for American Indian youth to learn more about our work at Hennepin County Healthcare. Hopefully, after going to college, they’ll want to join our community and be a part of our research work to help all the patients."
The closing celebration featured American Indian dancers and drummers and remarks by special guest Minnesota Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan. “I think these lab coats are very powerful, “said the Lt. Governor. “Our young people can see themselves in these roles in these spaces and places where sometimes we can’t always see ourselves. So, this event is powerful.”
“I’m encouraging our American Indian youth to develop a dream and goals you want to attain in life and go for it,” said Dr. Dorr. “As our community moves forward and we help each other, when one person does better we all can do better.”
About the Hennepin Healthcare Talent Garden
The Hennepin Healthcare Talent Garden aims to inspire and support historically excluded youth to pursue careers in healthcare. Its programs include the Youth Summits, mentorship, experienced-based learning like job shadowing, and paid internships.
The Talent Garden has held seven Youth Summits to date, including Latine Youth with Stethoscopes, Black Men with Stethoscopes, Black Women with Stethoscopes, and American Indian Youth with Stethoscopes. Two more Youth Summits are planned for fall 2023. Sign up for Talent Garden updates here.
More photos from the American Indian Youth with Stethoscopes Youth Summit