Creating Connection Through The Ladder

At the close of Minority Health Month in April, Lonzale Ramsey Jr, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School, reflected on what the month means to him and how he continues to support underrepresented communities through The Ladder. 

For Dr. Ramsey, Minority Health Month has given people an opportunity to acknowledge disparities and the issues in the U.S. healthcare system. 

“We need to acknowledge how these issues have affected underserved communities and vow to do what we can to fix some of those issues,” he said. “We also need to be cognizant of the work that we have left to do. The broad issues are not just done and resolved because there is a clinic in these communities.” 

In high school, Dr. Ramsey was involved in a grant-funded program that helped them with test preparations, with the goal of getting underrepresented students into healthcare careers. “I probably wouldn’t be here without that program,” he said.

When Dr. Ramsey was applying to residency programs, he knew he wanted to go somewhere with a community reach-back program similar to the one he went through. Then, he heard about The Ladder. 

“I was at a family medicine conference when Dr. Renee Crichlow pulled me out of a crowd and asked me what I wanted out of a residency program,” Dr. Ramsey said. “I told her some of the general things I was looking for, but one of the things in particular was some type of community service that gave back to the community. Then she told me about The Ladder program.” 

The Ladder is a program designed to help children and young adults from minority and low-income families explore and learn about careers in the healthcare industry.  At each meeting, scholars of all ages and on all stages of the education journey sit together at the same tables as equals to help each other learn and grow.

After hearing about The Ladder, Dr. Ramsey enrolled in the U of M’s North Memorial Family Medicine Residency Program in 2016, where he was actively involved in The Ladder program. Now after graduating and a few years in practice, Dr. Ramsey is back working with the North Memorial Family Medicine Residency Program as a full-time faculty member and vice chair for The Ladder Board of Directors.

“It is no secret that for a lot of underrepresented communities, it is hard for them to get into advanced healthcare careers for many different reasons,” Dr. Ramsey said. “A lot of it can be that they don’t know the first step to get into those careers. “Oftentimes, they don’t have anybody else in their family or a mentor that has done those careers, so they don’t have anyone to ask.” 

“The Ladder program helps to foster those relationships and provide mentorship. It also provides the opportunity to be a mentor yourself, which is great for scholars to put on applications,” he said.

“Although we are working really hard to ensure that young scholars and children have the opportunity, it is never too late for people. The Ladder is available to all, including adult learners thinking about going back to school and people already in the professions,” he said. “Everyone is welcome, and everyone is encouraged.”

To learn more about The Ladder or to get involved, visit theladderforamerica.org.

Watch this video to learn more about The Ladder and its impact on current medical students. 

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