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Intermountain’s Alta View Hospital hosts mentorship event for prospective Black medical students

The event helped students from high school through medical school make connections with Intermountain’s Black physicians.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Alice Akunyili, left, demonstrates starting an IV at the inaugural Medicine Immersion Day at Alta View Hospital in Sandy on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. Intermountain Healthcare and Black Physicians of Utah put on the event to benefit students of color from communities across the state.

Dozens of students gathered at Intermountain’s Alta View Hospital on Saturday for the inaugural Medicine Immersion Day, which provided an opportunity for students of color to learn about pathways to a career in health care.

The event was planned by Dr. Richard Ferguson, president and founder of Black Physicians of Utah. Ferguson grew up seeing Black doctors in his hometown of Washington, D.C., and he said he realizes many of Utah’s Black youth don’t get that opportunity — so Saturday’s event was intended to give that representation to students who might not have had it previously.

“Planting the seed early, showing the kids a path, showing that there’s others that they can aspire to be, that’s all it takes for some of them,” Ferguson said. “Now they got that motivation, they got that fire, that drive to say, ‘I want to be like that surgeon that was up in the front of the room,’ and then they don’t need sometimes much minding after that because these are already fairly studious students that are coming out.”

The students ranged in age from high school seniors to current medical students, and were recruited through social media and their local Black student unions. Reaching out to these younger students who may be years away from medical school is key, Ferguson said, so they can build up an advantage with things like research opportunities or training programs throughout their early education.

And in turn, these students can be the representation to more future doctors — as Black physicians account for only 5 percent of the country’s doctors, according to a 2019 study from the American Association of Medical Colleges.

“The thing about medicine is that as a medical doctor, as a physician, nurse, PA, there will be many different patients from all different walks of life, and we need to have a workforce that reflects accurately those same patients that are going to be treated,” said Emmanuel Oyalabu, a second-year student at Provo’s Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine who attended the event.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Emmanuel Oyalabu, a medical student at the first ever Medicine Immersion Day at Alta View Hospital in Sandy on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. Intermountain Healthcare and Black Physicians of Utah put on the event to benefit students of color from communities across the state.

“I want to encourage anybody who may be on the fence or anybody who thinks that they might not be a good fit for medicine to just try it out and see what they think about the career,” Oyalabu continued.

Students who attended the event participated in a Q&A session with some of Intermountain’s Black physicians, practiced patient simulations and toured the hospital’s operating room and labor and delivery unit.

Scott Robertson, Alta View’s hospital administrator, said there will be more events like this at Intermountain in the future.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Medical student Jude Emego demonstrates taking blood pressure at the first ever Medicine Immersion Day at Alta View Hospital in Sandy on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. Intermountain Healthcare and Black Physicians of Utah put on the event to benefit students of color from communities across the state.

“Some of the things that affect our health care the most are the social determinants of health — so the environment in which we live, the food we eat, our education level, our profession, those types of things,” Robertson said. “Often we find that minorities and people of color and other underrepresented groups — their social determinants of health prohibit them maybe from living the healthiest lives possible.”

“So we wanted to partner with Black Physicians of Utah to inspire young Black students to consider careers in health care, so that they could improve their education and improve their vocational opportunities. And also, really, just to be more representative in the community,” Robertson added.