Empowering Diversity in Healthcare: Milwaukee's First Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit

May 23, 2024 Posted by AHW Endowment

A group of students and young adults gather at Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit: Milwaukee

On Saturday, May 4, 2024, the lobby of the Rosa Parks Auditorium at Golda Meir High School was abuzz with excitement as students and their parents, educators, healthcare professionals, and community members checked in to begin their day at the first Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit: Milwaukee. 

The event—hosted by the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment (AHW) with community support from Milwaukee Fellows, Greater Milwaukee Urban League, and Black and Latino Male Achievement—brought hundreds of participants together to experience and participate in interactive workshops and engaging panel discussions, all designed to provide underrepresented minority youth with exposure to the medical field. 

About Black Men in White Coats

Founded in 2013, Black Men in White Coats aims to inspire and support young people from diverse backgrounds (both boys and girls) to pursue careers in medicine. This initiative was created in response to a report from the Association of American Medical Colleges that highlighted the declining number of Black male applicants to medical school.

Black Men in White Coats Youth Summits are community-organized events designed to connect healthcare professionals with underrepresented minority youth, providing them with insights into the medical field. The summits, independently organized by local leaders, educate students, parents, teachers, and community members on the paths to becoming medical professionals and help them build and expand their networks.

A student practices putting a blood pressure cuff on another student.

Ugwuji Maduekwe, MD, MPH, AHW Deputy Director and Associate Professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), spoke on the importance of bringing Black Men in White Coats to the Milwaukee community and providing the area’s youth with exposure to potential careers in medical fields. 

“Our main goal is to improve the health workforce across Wisconsin, and with BMWC, it is because we know that Black people and Black men specifically have the poorest health outcomes across the nation and in particular in Wisconsin… The goal of this is to increase the Black health workforce but to increase all underrepresented folks in the workforce as well.”

Watch Dr. Maduekwe’s interview about the Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit: MKE on Fox6 News.

Bringing Black Men in White Coats to Milwaukee

For Milwaukee’s first Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit, AHW and its community partners organized a full day of exciting and informative programming. 

The day kicked off with welcome remarks from Dr. Maduekwe as well as esteemed Wisconsin healthcare leaders:

  • Michael Cabonargi, Regional Director of the Great Lakes Region (Region V), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Kirsten Johnson, Secretary-designee, Wisconsin Department of Health Services
  • Joseph E. Kerschner, MD, Julia A. Uihlein, MA, Dean of the School of Medicine, Executive Vice President and Provost, Medical College of Wisconsin

An uplifting keynote address was then shared by Ian Martin, MD, MBA, FACEP, Professor with Tenure and System Chairman at MCW. Dr. Martin spoke about the path to his career in medicine and the challenges he encountered and overcame along the way, as well as tips and advice for the students interested in medical fields (and their families) who listened from the audience.

Dr. Ian Martin gives the keynote address

Interactive Workshops: Hands-On Introductions to Medical Fields 

Following the welcome and keynote, students were guided to classrooms throughout Golda Meir’s upper campus, which were set up for interactive workshops designed to give students introductions and experiences with a variety of medical focus areas, such as surgery, psychology, dentistry, the skeletal system, emergency medicine, and more.

Students had the opportunity to select which workshops to attend during the event, allowing them to explore topics of interest to them. In each workshop, medical professionals shared overviews of their fields and their experiences and also gave students the chance to try hands-on activities related to the workshop topic. 

For example, in the “808 and Heartbreaks” emergency medicine workshop, students learned CPR and how to intubate a patient on dummies. In “Skin in the Game,” a workshop focusing on surgical suturing, attendees practiced surgical stitching and stapling with provided practice tools. 

Through these engaging in-person experiences, students had the opportunity to perform real tasks that medical professionals carry out in various fields. These experiences are designed to help students gain confidence in pursuing their interests in medicine. By meeting and learning from professionals who actively work in these fields, students can see that a career in medicine is achievable for them.

A medical professional demonstrates chest compressions for a student.

Supporting Students' Medical Dreams: Panel Discussions for Families

While students participated in the day’s interactive workshops, parents and caregivers attended panel discussions where panelists discussed important topics relating to supporting and preparing students interested in pursuing careers in medical fields. 

The first panel of the day, It Takes a Village, brought together experts from medicine, education, and finance to guide parents, educators, and community leaders through the process of preparing students for medical school. Panelists covered topics like navigating admissions, crafting applications, setting goals, and developing financial plans, providing invaluable insights and practical strategies. 

The second panel, The Long Game, featured experienced doctors, educators, and community advocates who discuss the unique challenges and opportunities Black youth face in aspiring to medical careers. They offered personal experiences, practical advice, and informed approaches to supporting and mentoring aspiring doctors, overcoming systemic barriers, and fostering a nurturing environment for success. 

The Black Men in White Coats Panel: The Importance of Diversity in Healthcare

A highlight of the day was the final and main panel discussion, The Black Men in White Coats Panel, where panelists motivated and educated students and adults alike to champion diversity, equity, and inclusion in healthcare. 

The panel led an inspiring dialogue on overcoming barriers and forging pathways to success for aspiring Black physicians. Students gained invaluable insights into their academic and career trajectories, while parents discovered practical ways to support their children's aspirations.

A medical student speaks on the BMWC panel at the event.

Celebrating Success and Inspiring Futures

AHW is proud to have supported the Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit in Milwaukee, and to provide an an important opportunity to educate and inspire participants while laying the groundwork for a more diverse healthcare workforce in Wisconsin. With an emphasis on empowerment and inclusivity, the event set a promising precedent for future events and collaborations to inspire aspiring healthcare professionals across all backgrounds.

Check out the following clip from Fox6 News to hear more about the Black Men in White Coats Youth Summit: Milwaukee: