Growing up, Aiisya Williamson and Denise Brooks Williams had the same thought about becoming health care professionals: they could either be a doctor or a nurse.
Williamson, executive director of Mercy Primary Care Center in Detroit, and Brooks Williams, president and CEO of Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital, both found out through a unique University of Michigan School of Public Health program that there were other options.
The Summer Enrichment Program began in 1986 to encourage students from underrepresented populations to consider health care careers. It expanded after passage of Michigan’s Proposal 2, which banned race-based and affirmative action programs, to include all students committed to addressing health disparities.
“The idea is that we selected people who are really interested in eliminating these health inequalities, and when they’re in positions of power they might have a chance to change things,” explains Program Director Richard Lichtenstein, the J. Axelrod Collegiate Professor of Health Management and Policy and associate professor of Health Management and Policy at the School of Public Health.
On the occasion of the program’s 25th anniversary, Lichtenstein conducted an alumni survey to find out how the SEP had impacted participants.
- More than 97 percent of respondents said they had applied to graduate school in health or planned to do so, or they were enrolled in or had finished an advanced degree in the field.
- Nearly 70 percent of those receiving degrees got them in public health, with 54 percent enrolling in health management programs.
- Of alumni who had completed graduate training, more than 3/4 worked full-time in the health field, 2/3 were employed in management or policy areas, and 1/4 were clinical providers (or held both administrative and clinical positions).
Students work throughout Detroit at places like Mercy Primary Care Center, often with program alumnae like Williamson.
“Because the Summer Enrichment Program meant so much to me, and really in a lot of ways fundamentally changed my life, I love the fact that I’m able to give back to it now,” she said.