MHA alum Crystal Diaz (center left), assistant administratorof the Edward R. Roybal Comprehensive Health Center, leads a site visit with Professor LaVonna Lewis (center right) and students. (Photo by Deirdre Flanagan)
Young people interested in helping others often gravitate to the healthcare field, where clinical positions are usually the most common roles that come to mind. With the USC Diversity in Healthcare Leadership Initiative 2015 Summer Enrichment Program, USC Price School of Public Policy Professor LaVonna Lewis aims to show students the professional possibilities they typically don’t see.
“Health management and health policy, in a way, might be perceived as invisible careers, but they’re incredibly important,” Lewis said. “The goal of the summer program is to give students a sense of what people are doing in these careers and an understanding of the broad scope of the field.”
Executive healthcare careers in administration include a wide range of responsibilities that include planning, directing and assessing the service delivery and effectiveness of organizations such as hospitals, health plans, medical practices, health-related enterprises and community health groups.
While the program stresses the importance of having diversity in leadership in order to represent the population that is being served, it is open to everyone.
“All the evidence shows we have a whole host of health disparities in our country, the majority of which can’t be explained away by class and income issues,” Lewis said. “There is evidence that having someone who speaks the same language or understands the culture of the population makes a difference in terms of getting to better health outcomes.”
People are invited to apply from throughout the country, and while most of the participants are undergraduate students, students from high schools with a health track as part of the curriculum and people looking to make a career change also are permitted. This summer’s cohort, which took place over one week at the end of July, had 22 people, 18 from California.
More photos of the 2015 Summer Enrichment Program are available on Flickr
Lewis began leading the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) in 2002. One of the participants that first year was Crystal Diaz, who was an undergraduate at California State University, Long Beach, at the time and was motivated by the program to pursue a Master of Health Administration (MHA) at USC Price.
“I know I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for the SEP,” Diaz said. “The program brought to light the infinite opportunities available in this dynamic field. I instantly realized I could pursue a career that optimizes the well-being of our community and could make an impact on how medical care and services are delivered to patients.”
After having taken part in panel discussions during SEP in previous years, Diaz hosted this year’s cohort for a site visit at Edward R. Roybal Comprehensive Health Center in East Los Angeles, where she is the assistant administrator.
“We face problems and challenges every day in healthcare, and that builds complexity,” Diaz said. “Whether in a large hospital or an outpatient clinic such as Edward R. Roybal, we need innovative leaders and critical thinkers who can adapt and demonstrate the skills necessary to address and solve the issues that arise.”
She was one of five SEP alums – all of whom went on to pursue MHA degrees at USC Price – along with USC Price faculty, alumni and other healthcare leaders who volunteered their time to help give students the complete story of what to expect in health administration studies, how to get into a graduate program, and what it will be like in the job market.
“Hearing from the panelists was really cool for me because it showed I’m pursuing a degree that has a solid future,” said Nicolette Conte, who is entering her senior year majoring in psychology at USC Dornsife while beginning a progressive MHA degree program at USC Price this fall. “I got a much fuller understanding of the field than I expected to come from five days.”
Going into the program, Conte thought she wanted to be a hospital psychologist, and she noted that 90 percent of the students raised their hands at the beginning when Lewis asked how many of them wanted to work in a hospital. After going through SEP, she thinks she might take another direction.
“My interest in hospitals hasn’t decreased but I have a better awareness of other fields in which I could have a rewarding career while achieving my goal of helping people,” Conte said. “I wouldn’t be able to interact with patients as much but I’d still be helping them achieve higher health.”
This article originally appeared under the title: Summer program seeks to promote diversity among healthcare leaders at USC Price news.