By Christine Bordelon
dr Russell Ledet, MBA, a triple-board resident at Indiana University in Pediatrics/Psychology and Child Psychiatry, looked down on a group of 3- to 5-year-olds attending the Head Start Catholic Charities Summer Program at Incarnate Word on June 21 participated.
“Never stop dreaming,” he told them. “It’s okay to be afraid and you have to be willing to succeed in life.”
The African-American doctor joined other healthcare professionals who spoke to students attending the state’s “Short White Coat” pilot ceremony at Incarnate Word to inspire them to consider a career in healthcare and become “future healthcare heroes.” ” to be.
As part of their annual curriculum, Head Start students learn how community workers—such as doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance drivers, dental hygienists, and veterinarians—help others. You will also learn healthy eating habits and how to take care of yourself.
In April, employees at the Healthy Louisiana and Southeast Louisiana Area Health Education Center (SELAHEC) Foundation, working with the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), approached Head Start by creating a program that encourages the development of future health heroes said Naomi Suematsu, MPH health and nutrition coordinator for the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Head Start program for Catholic charities.
“For 30 years, we’ve been speaking to young people about taking care of their health,” said Brian Jakes Sr., President of SELAHEC, which co-founded the Healthcare Professions Awareness Initiative with the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH). “Addressing Significant Health Disparities Between Minority and Underserved Populations in Louisiana.”
“We’re looking for health heroes,” he said. “We don’t have enough doctors or nurses.”
Jakes told the youngsters that the journey to becoming a health hero starts with brushing your teeth, getting enough sleep and fighting back against risky things like walking down the street. He said they could be heroes right now by being a role model for their siblings.
Each student went to the Short White Coat ceremony with a picture they had been colored by a medical professional and saw words of encouragement on a banner that read, “If you can imagine it, you can dream it.” Dream it and you can become it.”
“This is the hero class of the future of healthcare,” said Demetra Dantzler, HEC liaison coordinator.
dr Shantell Hebert-Magee, Region I medical director of the LDH Office of Public Health, was another well-known physician present at the ceremony. She described the importance of the white doctor’s coat – similar to a hero’s cloak – and donned one to show the youngsters. She told a story from her grandfather about “An Ant and a Termite”. Despite being small and unable to help anyone, the insects proved dissenters wrong and saved other animals after a disaster.
“No matter how small or insignificant you are, you can help. You can move mountains and face any obstacle,” said Dr. Hebert-Magee. “We need people like you. You are important and you can make a difference.”
She had them recite: “Though I am small, my dreams are big. I can be a health hero.”
dr Ledet reinforced those dreams by telling his life story through an cartoon character he created named Dante – a little black boy who grew up like him in the 9th precinct and always carried a book to read. Dante changes the world, he said. dr Ledet said he was scared when he made the cartoon because doctors aren’t meant to make cartoons. But after reviewing his life as a security guard at a hospital before becoming a doctor, he urged students not to “let anyone tell you you can’t do something,” no matter how many times you’re told it. “Don’t let ‘her’ no be ‘your’ no.”
At the end of the ceremony, each student was identified by name and donned a mini white gown. It was her job to hold a book together.
Registration is currently ongoing with the five Catholic charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Head Start and Early Head Start. Head Start programs promote the “social, physical, and intellectual development” of children ages six weeks to five years whose families live at or below the federal poverty line. For details, call or visit https://www.ccano.org/head-start-program/ or contact Gaynell Anderson, Incarnate Word Head Start Site Manager, at [email protected]