By Michelle Gaskill-Hames

 

The Institute for Diversity in Health Management’s (IFD) Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) lays a strong foundation for a career in health care leadership for diverse individuals. It also gives hospitals and health systems access to the next generation of health care leaders and the opportunity to diversify their organization in order to better serve their patients and communities.

Michelle Gaskill-HamesI can attest to this, not only because I have been an avid supporter and mentor for SEP students at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago, where I currently serve as president, but also because I was a part of the inaugural SEP class about 20 years ago. I can say with certainty that the SEP program was the catalyst for my entry into this field. It has led to a rewarding and gratifying profession where I am in the position to address health disparities and make an impact on access and quality of care.

The SEP places minority, graduate students pursuing advanced degrees in health care administration in 10-week, paid internships at hospitals, health systems and other health care organizations. Experienced executives mentor the students during the internship and expose them to many facets of health care administration.

When I was an undergraduate studying nursing at the University of Michigan, I was placed through the SEP at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. I worked with the president of the system and was mentored by the chief nurse executive. Because of this exposure, I decided to pursue a Master of Health Care Administration degree.

That decision has led to a unique career path that transitioned from a clinician at the bedside to various leadership roles in consulting firms, hospitals and health systems. At each step of the journey, I have been fortunate to have mentors who have opened doors and guided my career decisions.

I believe giving young health care professionals access to experienced mentors is one of the most valuable components of the SEP. The mentors provide support and career advice, as well as critical early-career connections. At the same time, the SEP interns provide quality work, and share their own learning and insight about their host organization. This is often extremely beneficial to the organization’s leadership.

Since 1994, the SEP has placed more than 1,100 students in internships at some of the nation’s leading hospitals and health systems. After the internship, host sites often offer students full-time employment, and many former SEP participants now hold senior management and board positions at health care organizations across the country.

Hosting an SEP student helps to demonstrate an organization’s commitment to increasing diversity in leadership – one of the key focus areas of the National Call to Action to Eliminate Health Care Disparities.

As an example, Advocate Health Care has found value in the SEP because it serves as a potential pipeline for our John Lassiter Post-Graduate Minority Fellowship and other leadership diversity initiatives.

Registration is open for organizations interested in hosting an SEP intern for 2016. Matching for the first group of students will begin on Feb. 1, and internships will take place from June through August. Organizations that sign up to host an SEP intern also will receive a complimentary IFD membership for 2016.

To register as a host site, please contact Chris O. Biddle, IFD membership and educational specialist, at cbiddle@aha.org or at (312) 422-2658.

Gaskill-Hames is the president of Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. The 205-bed hospital treats more than 90,000 patients each year, giving them access to more than 300 physicians with expertise in more than 50 specialties.