Crispus Attucks High School and Indiana University Health announced the first class of students in a health care fellowship that could lead to a job out of high school and help diversify the field.
Students, all of them freshmen, were announced one by one at a ceremony in the school’s parking lot May 4 and received a white lab coat from IU Health President and CEO Dennis Murphy.
The 27 students chosen for the fellowship will spend the next four years on a path to getting a job at IU Health after graduating high school. They can also then get tuition assistance for a related degree.
“We would like you to be doctors, nurses, researchers,” Murphy said.
The application process was intensive. Crispus Attucks is already Indianapolis Public Schools’ health sciences pathway school, and students who wanted to be part of the fellowship wrote essays, went through interviews and had to have letters of recommendation.
Alena Bibbs said she was inspired by her grandma, a nurse in South Bend, to apply for the fellowship and commit herself to it through high school.
“I just feel I have the skill and requirements to be in the health care industry, and I’m very proud of that,” she said.
Jamal Smith, director of government affairs and strategic partnerships for IU Health, said the next four years and the years after that in health care will come with plenty of challenges.
“When the work is difficult and you question your ability, trust the process,” he said.
Indianapolis City-County Council President Vop Osili said it’s fitting the fellowship would involve Crispus Attucks because of the legacy of the school, which opened in 1927 as the city’s first public high school for African Americans.
Osili rattled off statistics about how many Black doctors in training there are at medical schools — not enough — and said this is a step to reversing that.
“We can’t build that future without you,” he told the students.
About 7.5% of students enrolled in medical schools for the 2020-21 school year are Black or African American, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. The association also reports the acceptance rate for Black or African American applicants was 41% for this school year, slightly below the average of 44%.
Mayor Joe Hogsett told the students they will “diversify and strengthen” the health care field in Indianapolis, which could in turn improve health outcomes.
“You are pioneers,” he said, “opening opportunities and blazing a trail for others who follow you.”
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.