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REACH program offers inspiration, information

Winnie Ladu, UHOP student and High School Alliance graduate, returned to Benson High School as the keynote speaker for the REACH event.

Winnie Ladu, UHOP student and High School Alliance graduate, returned to Benson High School as the keynote speaker for the REACH event.

Winnie Ladu, a UNMC Urban Health Opportunities Program undergraduate scholar at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, returned to Benson High School, her alma mater, as a keynote speaker, with a message of encouragement last week: You can do it.

Ladu, who also graduated from the UNMC High School Alliance while at Benson, learned about the UHOP program during her junior year in high school. She returned to Benson High to speak to a group of ninth-grade students interested in joining the school’s Health Professions Academy, telling them about her own journey and encouraging them to explore health professions for themselves.

See a photo album from the event.

The event, called Recruit, Engage and Advance Careers in Healthcare (REACH) Summit, was the first of its kind for the Benson program.

Benjamin Acheampong, MBChB, speaks to students at the event.

REACH was developed by the medical pathway division of the College of Medicine DEI office, led by director Liliana Bronner. The office plans to hold similar events in the future.

“We are looking at doing this at other schools with health professions academies, including other OPS schools,” Bronner said. “It’s motivating to see that UNMC faculty want to reach out to students to share their careers and build excitement and motivation to explore the possibilities in health care.”

The Benson event drew on support from UNMC colleges, departments and offices. Participants included representatives from the UNMC College of Dentistry, internal medicine, pediatric cardiology, neurosurgery, surgery and others.

UNMC researchers and students discuss research careers with Benson students.

“It was nice to see how engaged our faculty was, and how hungry the students were for it,” she said. “Seeing faculty of color participating and watching how the students reacted to seeing people who look like them in these careers was exciting. That is the type of outreach we are promoting out of our DEI office.”

In addition to Ladu, participants included:

  • UNMC’s Benjamin Acheampong, MBChB, and student Ryan Boyland discussing pediatric cardiology;
  • UNMC’s Arnette Klug, MD, and Patrick Thomas, MD, discussing pediatric neurosurgery and surgery;
  • UNMC medical students Nabilaa Azimi, Yasmeen Bora and Carmen Ochoa Farho, discussing physical examinations;
  • UNMC College of Dentistry representatives Gisselle Hernandez, Kimberly Pierre, Tami Trewet Sloop and Erin Wirth, discussing the college and its RHOP pathway;
  • UNMC’s Scot Ouellette, PhD, and students Liz Klug, Ryan Singh and Dylan George, discussing science and research careers;
  • UNMC’s Joshua Wilderman and nurse practitioner Michelle Gulbrandso, featured the STOP the BLEED program;
  • UNMC’s Michael Visenio, MD, and Kelsey Tieken, MD, discussing surgery discussing laparoscopic surgery;
  • UNMC’s John Hall, MD, and student Alex Maben, discussing internal medicine; and
  • UNO’s Clare Maakestad from Health Career Resource Center and Omaha Area Health Education Center (AHEC) promoted health majors and pathway programs to health careers. 

Bronner said events like this give students exposure to the wide array of health-related professions.

Benson students try a laparoscopic surgery simulation.

“These students, who are ninth graders, are getting ready to join the Health Professions Academy here in Benson,” Bronner said. “A lot of these students are from first-generation households and they may not understand the college system or be familiar with the vast variety of health career types that are available.

“We invited some of our friends from the med center to come do hands-on activities and speak with the students so they can get an idea of what’s involved in their jobs,” she said. “When they start in the academy and start engaging in their health science subjects, hopefully they’ll be intrigued and consider exploring one of these careers we’ve featured.”

Angela Johanek, Benson college and career academy specialist, said the academy’s focus includes medical and therapeutic professions, behavioral health, exercise training, athletic training and sports medicine.

Although this event was the first of its kind, “UNMC has gone above and beyond every time” for the program, she said. “We work with multiple colleges within UNMC, and every partner we have, every event has been amazing. We have been able to go back and forth between events at UNMC, classes and shadows – it’s been amazing.”

“Amazing” also is how Ladu describes her UHOP experience.

“Knowing that there would be guidance throughout the program, and knowing that it catered to people like me, students in urban areas — it was uplifting to see a program that was made for me,“ she said. “I felt encouraged to go for it. I felt that if I didn’t, I would have regretted it. And it’s been everything I hoped it would be and more.

“I found out about it in my junior year – these are freshman, so when they can see what’s out there for them, they can know how to better prepare for it and build up their experience in preparation for that.

“Coming back and saying, ‘This is what can happen if you put in the work,’ I hope that will be inspiring to them.”

Following the success of REACH, the UNMC College of Medicine DEI Office is exploring opportunities for new partnerships and events to highlight UNMC’s health professions pathway program.

1 comment

  1. Heidi Kaschke says:

    It is always great to see one of our UNMC High School Alliance alums doing amazing things. We are proud of you, Winnie! Keep up the good work and we will see you back on campus soon. We can’t wait to call you Dr. Ladu.

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