Published on August 27, 2021

LMH Health Summer Leadership Academy students learn through mentorship, hands-on experience

For the third summer in a row, LMH Health welcomed local high school juniors and seniors to take a peek behind the scenes, participate in executive meetings and shadow healthcare providers.

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In collaboration with USD 497 and LMH Health Foundation, the LMH Health Summer Leadership Academy is a paid eight-week mentorship program introducing high school students to careers in healthcare. The academy has a focus on students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds in healthcare.

“Part of why we have inequity in healthcare is due to the lack of providers of color to care for our communities of color,” said Dr. Walter Ingram, LMH Health physician and LMH Health Foundation board member. “Programs like the academy help bring students of color into the healthcare field and start to bridge that gap.”

Erica Hill is the director of health equity, inclusion and diversity at LMH Health, as well as the director of finance and strategic initiatives at LMH Health Foundation. She led the development and implementation of the academy in 2019 and oversees the program each year with support from Laura Ashley, LMH Health employee relations and engagement specialist, and Nicole Olson, LMH Health Foundation assistant.

“The Leadership Academy is a comprehensive program that creates a learning culture and promotes personal and professional development for our scholars, all while being surrounded by caring adults who want to see them succeed,” said Hill. “The purpose of the Academy is to provide an opportunity for students to learn and explore. Often times, it’s a lack of opportunity, not ability, that is the barrier to success.”

The students’ experience included:

  • One-on-one mentoring by senior leadership executives at LMH Health
  • Weekly field trips, workshops and trainings
  • On-site personal and professional development opportunities
  • Volunteer opportunities

At the conclusion of the program, the students received a scholarship toward their post-secondary education, funded by gifts to LMH Health Foundation.

“Donor support helps us address inequity in healthcare,” said Rebecca Smith, LMH Health Vice President of Strategic Communications and LMH Health Foundation Executive Director. “As a mentor, I can see firsthand the traction that Erica is creating through the LMH Health Summer Leadership Academy.”

All nine Academy Students

2021 Academy Students

Nine participants were selected this year: Chais Chickaway, Unique Hall, LaDerrick Reeves, Ahnie Scott, Jesse Self and Zoe Symons from Lawrence High School, and Gabi Carttar, Evan Darrow and Ta’Mya Douglas from Free State High School.

“Before this summer, I didn’t really know what healthcare involved. The academy has been a really great opportunity,” said Jesse Self. “I’ve gotten to do a lot of things really early – things that 90 percent of kids don’t get to do yet – like shadowing doctors or getting to make connections around the hospital and community.”

Some of the students say that their experiences in the Academy have helped them decide what to study in college or possibly choose as a career.

“The academy has exposed me to so many opportunities I didn’t know existed,” said Gabi Carttar. “Being around LMH Health has made me realize there are a lot of good careers that could be rewarding or interesting. It definitely helped me want to take first steps like studying biology in college.”

Chais Chickaway said she thought the academy would help her decide if she wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. After shadowing providers at OrthoKansas, she is interested in studying to be a physical therapist or athletic trainer.

“I was able to see many things at OrthoKansas like X-rays and casts being removed,” said Chickaway. “The athletic trainer I shadowed gave me some great books to read and get a preview of what I’d study in college.”

Prior to starting the academy, LaDerrick Reeves knew he had an interest in the medical field and had already earned a CNA certification.

“Shadowing anyone who works with patients is what I’ve enjoyed most,” said Reeves. “I’ve especially enjoyed physical therapy, where there a lot of older people – that’s the demographic I’d like to work with in the future.”

Learning leadership skills is another main focus of the academy. The students were each paired with a mentor from LMH Health’s senior leadership team and join them for meetings and events.

“On a day-to-day basis, my favorite thing has been building a relationship with my mentor, Michael Williams,” said Carttar. “Getting to make new connections is what makes every day fun.

Self said he’s enjoyed learning about leadership from the academy’s founder, Erica Hill.

“This academy promotes leadership and teaches how to become a leader,” said Self. “Having someone right there, constantly displaying leadership, is great to observe. That’s one of the best parts – being with a leader while learning how to be a leader.”


Story by Courtney Bernard

Courtney is the Development Coordinator for the LMH Health Foundation.



Media Inquiries

For media inquiries related to LMH Health contact:
Amy Northrop, Director of Communication
Phone: 785-505-2931
Email: Amy.Northrop@lmh.org

LMH Health Summer Leadership Academy students learn through mentorship, hands-on experience