LMH Health Summer Leadership Academy provides students real-life experience, mentorship and training LMH Health


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LMH Health welcomed six local high school students to participate in its fourth annual Summer Leadership Academy this year.

In collaboration with USD 497, Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence and LMH Health Foundation, the LMH Health Summer Leadership Academy is a paid eight-week mentorship program introducing high school students to careers in healthcare. The academy is a program that is intentional about diversity and providing opportunities to students from all backgrounds.

“The Leadership Academy is a comprehensive program that creates a learning culture and promotes personal and professional development for our scholars, all while being surrounded by caring adults that want to see them succeed,” said Erica Hill, director of health equity, inclusion and diversity. at LMH Health, and director of finance and strategic initiatives at LMH Health Foundation. “The purpose of the Academy is to provide an opportunity for students to learn, explore and make professional connections.”

Hill led the development and implementation of the academy in 2019 and oversees the program each year with leadership support from Nicole Olson, LMH Health Foundation assistant.

“Our community has students that may not have access to resources and opportunities outside of the classroom to learn about leadership and their future career – this is why centering equity is important,” said Hill. “We created the Academy to bridge the opportunity gap and build teams that reflect the diverse patients we care for.”

This year, the students’ experience included:

  • Hands-on experience with hospital executives
  • Shadowing healthcare jobs including nursing, physical therapy and pathology
  • College and career coaching
  • Volunteer service opportunities
  • Field trips to community organizations including the Treatment and Recovery Center of Douglas County, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health, Lawrence Public Library and Boys and Girls Club

At the conclusion of the program on Friday, July 29, the students attended a celebration luncheon and each received a scholarship from the LMH Health Foundation towards their post-secondary education.

Six participants were selected this year: Olakunle Akinniyi, Maya Berry, Olivia Nunez and Christopher Oral from Lawrence High School, Jada Fowler from Free State High School, and Zane Okoya from the Lawrence Virtual High School.

“It was a good introduction into the medical field,” said Christopher Oral, who hopes to become a trauma surgeon. “I had shadowing opportunities that let me see the practical application of medicine. The Academy was a good experience to make sure I am on the right path.”

Zane Okoya recently earned her CNA certification and said her career goal is likely to become a family physician. She expressed how much she valued the mentor relationships and connections made during the Academy.

“Consistently throughout the program, each mentor expressed their care and dedication,” said Okoya. “They were willing to answer questions and helped us understand. In all aspects of the Academy, there is a significant amount of care.

Olakunle Akinniyi said he applied to the Academy to learn leadership skills. He plans to study political science and hopes to become a diplomat with the US State Department.

“For me, it’s all about leadership and business skills,” said Akinniyi. “Although I am not planning to go into the medical field, the leadership skills I’ve learned from this experience will reflect in any area I go into.”

Community members have made generous financial investments for the Academy over the years. Gifts to the LMH Health Foundation have helped continue and enhance the program, according to Hill.

“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.”

After only four years, Hill said that LMH Health is already seeing the fruits from the Academy program. LMH Health has hired some of the Academy graduates, several of whom work at the new LMH Health West Campus.

“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. “Without this program, these students may not have received this kind of leadership experience. The Academy’s purpose is to provide experiences to change beliefs and positively impact lives.”


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