My work at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is about solving difficult and entrenched health problems for people from low-income backgrounds across the country. I have learned a lot through my 11 years working at the foundation, but the most important lesson I’ve learned is that the people who experience barriers to health for themselves or their communities, are often the most likely to identify the most pragmatic, effective, and sustainable solutions to those problems.
As with our work in community settings, lived experience and time spent understanding individual and community barriers to health can also play an important role in clinical settings. A health care professional who understands the assets and barriers at play for their patient can be a more informed provider, partner, and advocate. It follows that a diverse workforce in the health professions – and the diverse perspective it provides – contributes to enhanced communication, health care access, patient satisfaction, decreased health disparities, and improved and more innovative problem solving for complex challenges.
To bring these diverse perspectives and strengths to our health care system, we need to do a better job of encouraging interest in the comprehensive health professions from a young age and supporting students’ career explorations and preparedness in these areas. Students who are introduced to STEM-related careers in general and to the health professions in particular, can go on to pursue any number of health-related career fields in their post-secondary experience.
True to their model of serving the local community, Dell Medical School (Dell Med) is solving this problem in unique and interesting ways in Central Texas. One example is their Health Sciences Summer Camps where students are trading in archery lessons for anatomy courses at summer camp. The Dell Med team is inspiring a generation of future health leaders through hands-on learning experiences for middle and high school students. Students interact with health professionals and learn things like how to administer IVs, and how to use cutting edge technology.
Watch this video to see how Dell Med – and this camp – is changing the trajectory of Gabriela’s life in a meaningful way. She was someone who went from not knowing a single doctor in her community, to becoming the change her community needs. In her own words, “I’m going to be a doctor, in my community.” Health truly does begin at home.