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The importance of introducing youth to careers in health care

While I have treated patients of all ages throughout my career, children remain extremely close to my heart. Recently, I was invited to speak at a gala about the importance of introducing youth to careers in the health care field. This opportunity was afforded by an organization that is doing just that—Victory 4 Kidz.

My first encounter with Victory 4 Kidz was this past summer when I participated in a discussion with 10 students who were attending summer camp. When I first entered the room, there was some hesitation and shyness on the part of the students, but that soon changed. I wanted to make them feel as comfortable as possible, so I introduced myself and talked about my background.

I talked about being born in Charleston, South Carolina, growing up in Gary and then attending and graduating from Roosevelt High School, Tuskegee University and Meharry Medical College, both of which are Historically Black Colleges and Universities. After I spoke about my educational experience, the children peppered me with questions and were very engaging.

One of the things I love most about children is that they have no filters! They ask what they want, without hesitation or shame. As a doctor, they often want to know about surgery, how much blood I see or whether I save lives! Their curiosity gave me energy and further confirmed that programs such as Victory 4 Kidz are much needed in our communities, particularly communities with a deficiency of resources.

Recently, we celebrated National STEM/STEAM Day, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and Art adding the “A” in STEAM. Statistics show that youth in communities of color, especially our young ladies, are not being exposed to careers in these areas as much as their white counterparts.

STEM is a part of our everyday life—from the medication we take to the cars we drive. Students should be exposed to STEM, health sciences and other key roles in the health care sector and beyond. This is the mission of Victory 4 Kidz, and I love it! I believe that if programs of this nature were around when I was growing up, more of my highschool classmates may have pursued careers in health care.

Summer camps, workshops and other programs are extremely instrumental in helping students envision themselves having a career in health care. Whether the student becomes a doctor, a nurse, a medical assistant, health care IT specialist, the possibilities are truly endless. However, the vision to have a career in health care is best when planted at an early age, and that comes through providing real life experiences and interaction with those of us who work in the field.

When I was in kindergarten, my teacher asked each student to stand up and share what we wanted to be when we grew up. There were the typical responses of fireman, police officer, and teacher. When it was my turn, I stood up and said I wanted to be a doctor. Well, my classmates, especially the boys, started laughing saying, “girls can’t be doctors, only boys. You meant to say a nurse.” My teacher came and stood next to me, then she kneeled down at eye level and she said to me, “You can be whatever you want to be.”

Mrs. Springer then turned to the class and said, “girls can be doctors, too.” I have carried that experience with me throughout my career and continue to share that with every little young lady who is doubting her future and all that she can potentially be.

A few months ago, Mrs. Springer passed away. When I attended her wake, I spoke with one of her daughters, and I introduced myself. She immediately exclaimed, “Oh, Dr. Seabrook, you were a princess to my mom.” And to think, Mrs. Springer was the hero in my story! The moral is that we never know the impression we leave on a child, so make sure your words have purpose and instill confidence!

It is my honor to acknowledge Victory 4 Kidz for making a positive impression on the young people they serve. Their team is just getting started on this journey, and they can count on me and my team for support. I also urge those who are reading this column to use your super powers to help a child fulfill their dream. Whether it’s in health care or other career paths, we must support them for they are indeed our FUTURE!

Dr. Janet Seabrook

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