As a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, Stephen England, MD, has treated some of the most complex patients at Gillette Children’s for more than 30 years. When asked about his career path, England reflects on growing up in Saint Paul with a tight-knit family and an abundance of role models in the medical field. Dr. England's father was a physician, and he notes how early exposure to the medical helped him envision his own future in medicine, "It kind of demystifies it." Reflects Dr. England, "I knew what doctors did because my father did it and his friends did it."
Empowering youth to be able to see themselves in medicine is one of the reasons England participated in planning for Medical Discovery Day for BIPOC Youth: Powered by Gillette Children's and Black Men in White Coats. The event, which drew youth and their parents from around Minnesota to Gillette's Saint Paul Campus, focused on giving BIPOC youth an opportunity to learn about medical careers directly from physicians and other professionals of color.
"It helps to see someone who looks like you. If they meet people who spend time with them and are willing to mentor them or give them advice, I think it's eye-opening for a lot of kids." Dr. England says, "I think that's what this day is for, is to open eyes and their minds."
Experiences Demystify Medical Careers
Throughout the event, elementary, middle, and high school students had the opportunity to try hands-on activities and learn about a variety of medical careers directly from professionals in the field. Walking through the halls of Gillette Children's, you could catch a glimpse of a 9th grader delicately guiding a surgical saw through bone or a group of elementary students belting out "Stayin' Alive" while practicing their CPR skills.
Participants could even choose their avatars during an activation in Gillette Children's James R. Gage Center for Gait and Motion Analysis. The same cutting-edge motion capture technology that informs Gillette's clinical decision-making was used to project dinosaurs, foxes, and other creatures mimicking students' movements in real time.
The Impact of Representation in Healthcare
Sparking enthusiasm for medicine isn't just creating more interest in the field—disparities in representation can impact patient care and public health. A recent study in JAMA Network Open even suggests that greater representation of Black primary care physicians in U.S. counties may be related to better population health outcomes for the Black individuals who live there.
Creating more pathways for BIPOC students to explore medicine is a necessary step toward creating a workforce more reflective of the communities healthcare organizations serve. It also paves the way for a new generation of talented leaders: "It means more people from different backgrounds and having different perspectives," notes Dr. England. "I think the science is the same and caring for people is the same. The surgery is the same. But it broadens the pool of talent. It's more bright people going into the field."
Navigating the Path Ahead
Throughout the day, youth at the Medical Discovery Day event were able to make new connections, build community, and envision a future for themselves in medicine. When asked what advice he would give to these young people considering a career as a physician, England says, "I think it's the same advice my father would have gotten going into medical school in the 50s or me in the early 80s: Find out something that you're really interested in and passionate about. Focus on your school. And don't take no for an answer – just keep on trying."
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