LMH Health’s Leadership Academy inspires tomorrow’s medical students | LMH Health

For the fifth year, LMH Health welcomed local high school sophomores, juniors and seniors to participate in the Leadership Academy. The Academy provides students with an interest in healthcare a jump start on careers in healthcare administration, medicine and allied health.

In collaboration with Lawrence Public Schools, and the LMH Health Foundation, the LMH Health Summer Leadership Academy is a paid eight-week program that is intentional about equity and providing opportunity to students from all backgrounds. This one-of-a-kind experience allows students to learn through mentorship and hands-on training while establishing a relationship with the local community.

Seven participants were selected this year:

  • Alex Brinker, Lawrence High School junior
  • Autumn Beach, College and Career Center senior
  • Brandon Sikes, Free State High School senior
  • Jaelizza Garcia, Free State High School senior
  • Maxx Krause, College and Career Center senior
  • Naomi Porter, Free State High School junior
  • Steven Duan, Free State High School senior

Erica Hill, director of health equity, inclusion and diversity at LMH Health, and director of finance and strategic initiatives at the LMH Health Foundation, led the development and implementation of the Academy and oversees the program each year with support from Nicole Olson, LMH Health Foundation assistant. The program offers students an opportunity to explore what healthcare has to offer in a nurturing and supportive environment. Sometimes, all the students need is someone in their corner rooting for them.

“It is incredible to watch the students grow and thrive throughout the summer,” Hill said. “This program fulfills a purpose that is so much bigger than LMH Health. It changes the lives and trajectories of these students and works to eliminate opportunity gaps.”

If you’d like to support LMH Health’s equity work, please consider making a gift to the Health Equity Advancement Fund. Visit LMH.org/Donate to make a gift or call 785-505-5005 for more information.

Click here to learn more or apply for summer 2024 Leadership Academy Program.

These opportunity gaps relate to the uncontrollable factors that contribute to lower rates of success in education, such as socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity. These gaps also translate to healthcare, as the profession does not reflect the racial demographics of the community we serve. The Academy focuses on providing experiences to students in an effort to build a workforce that better represents the communities served in healthcare.

The program aims to increase the potential for economic upward mobility for students in our community. It also has a positive impact on inequities on a local level by providing students with an opportunity to learn about academic disparities among various demographics in our school district and health disparities in our community. Additionally, the students have the opportunity to learn about and experience public speaking.

They are encouraged to explore as many areas of healthcare as they can fit into their schedules. Many students enter the program with a certain area of interest and as they explore the various aspects of healthcare, may change their mind because they have an opportunity for first-hand experiences.

The Academy surrounds the students with adults that want them to succeed. The students have the opportunity to explore what healthcare has to offer with no pressure. Throughout their experience, they gain a support system of professionals rooting for them.

Brandon Sikes saw the program as an opportunity for his confidence to grow. Going through the Academy and talking with professionals about their experiences in college and medical school gave him the push he needed to believe in himself.

“After hearing from so many professionals that they have faith in me even when I didn’t, I know this program was exactly what I needed,” Sikes said. “It changed my future in a way I never thought it could.”

The Academy guides students through each step of entering the professional healthcare industry and starts equity work from the beginning of the program. At the beginning of the summer, students are given an allowance and go shopping with Hill for business-appropriate clothes.

The program included a variety of activities that remove equity barriers and give the students a step-up in the industry. This year the students’ experience included:

  • Hands-on healthcare executive experience
  • Field trips, workshops & trainings
  • College and career coaching
  • Volunteer service opportunities

“There are not many programs of this caliber and with this kind of impact in other districts in Kansas,” said Dr. Anthony Lewis, USD 497 superintendent. “It is a true collaborative community investment in our student leaders. Just as our district wants to grow its own teachers, other businesses and organizations in our community should be thinking about building a pipeline from our schools to their future workforce.”

Maxx Krause came into the summer not knowing what to expect. He applied to the program because he was interested in healthcare, but didn’t know if he would find the right fit in the future. Now, he plans to be a physical therapist.

“They let me be who I am. They didn’t try to hide anything about me and encouraged me to embrace every part of who I am,” Krause said. “It opened my eyes to all the options I have, far beyond what I ever imagined possible.”

Jaelizza Garcia found it encouraging to see how the medical professionals can have an impact on a patient’s road to recovery without being in the room. Seeing the impact they made confirmed that she wanted to pursue a career in pathology.

The unique program assigns senior leaders as mentors to the students. The mentors are willing to make the time and investment to connect with teenagers and guide them through their experience. The mentors make a huge impact on the students and their future goals.

“Many of the students continue to reach out for letters of recommendation – and having a letter written by hospital executives sets them apart,” said Hill. “This program allows students to learn leadership skills that they will be able to use not only in their careers, but as student leaders in their school.”

Sheryle D’Amico, Academy mentor and senior vice president for strategic integrations at LMH Health, had a major impact on this year’s students. Her caring, compassionate leadership style made all the students feel comfortable in a hospital environment and empowered them to be themselves throughout the experience.

“It’s hard to explain how much someone can truly care for you,” Krause said. “She is the definition of no man left behind and I know I could always come to her. She was there for me when I didn’t have anyone else and I will never forget that.”

For the Academy students, the program goes far beyond the eight weeks, it is a lifelong experience. It provides students with unique opportunities which broaden their career outlook and economic mobility. With their experiences and connections from the Academy, many of the students go on to apply to medical school and eventually work in hospitals.

After only five years, many of the program’s alumni have been successful in the field. Hill and other mentors hear from many on a regular basis. The students share their career successes and maintain the connections from the Academy even after the program concludes.

Evan Darrow graduated from the Academy in 2021. He was hired at LMH Health after his graduation and now works as technician in the emergency department.

“The Leadership Academy has given me many connections, not only to the hospital and its executives, but also at KU,” Darrow said.

At the conclusion of the program, the students received a scholarship toward their post-secondary education, funded by gifts to the LMH Health Foundation.

“Donor support helps us address inequity in healthcare,” said Rebecca Smith, LMH Health vice president of Strategic Communications and LMH Health Foundation Executive Director. “As a mentor, I can see firsthand the traction that Erica is creating through the LMH Health Summer Leadership Academy.”

Natalie Terranova is a marketing and communications intern at LMH Health.