“When I was a kid, I visited the Emergency Room at Lurie Children’s many times. What really caught my attention was the way every worker was kind and helpful to my parents, who are Hispanic and – at the time – didn’t speak much English,” reflects Valeria Roman, an intern with the Mentorship and Workforce Development program here at Lurie Children’s. Now just beginning her sophomore year at North Park University, Valeria is eager to pursue a career in medicine. “Because of how my parents were treated, I dreamed of working at that very same hospital. When I heard about the Discovering Healthcare Careers internship opportunity, I applied hoping to shadow doctors and truly feel and see what my future is going to look like,” Valeria shares.
Raised in Belmont Cragin, Valeria is the daughter of Mexican immigrants who came to United States in the early 2000’s. Her mother gave up her teaching career when she emigrated and now works at a paper factory. Her father worked in roofing construction but is no longer working due to medical issues.
For Valeria, a career in medicine holds special meaning. During her time as One Summer Chicago intern with Lurie Children’s, Valeria noticed a glaring lack of diversity in the medical workforce – a gap that is not unique to Lurie Children’s and exists across healthcare nationwide. “The majority of doctors are white. The minority is us – Hispanics and Blacks. I really want that to change,” Valeria shares.
Creating a healthcare workforce that mirrors the diversity of Chicago’s communities is core to the mission of Lurie Children’s Mentorship and Workforce Development program. While at university, Valeria developed friendships with people from many different parts of the world. “We're the future of the medical field. It's going to make a huge impact. When children see doctors or nurses with their skin tone, it's inspiring to them – it’s inspiring even to me now,” she tells us.
Valeria has big dreams: she has explored becoming a surgeon, pediatrician and – after having the opportunity to shadow a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) nurse this summer – is now planning to become a neonatal nurse. “I saw that floor, the atmosphere, and I fell in love with it,” she recalls. Valeria has participated in three Mentorship & Workforce Development internships, exposing her to diverse types of healthcare professions. Next, she plans to apply for the hospital’s INSPIRE2 Student Nurse Mentoring Program, which connects nursing students from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds with mentors.
This summer, 102 students participated in Mentorship & Workforce Development internships at Lurie Children’s. Like Valeria, each of these students brings important perspectives, insurmountable energy and commitment to their goals – injecting a much-needed dose of hope into the future of healthcare.