Democrat and Chronicle Features Speranza Institute
The following article was published in the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper:
Ava Jordan had a stethoscope in her ears, trying to listen for thumps as Wilhelmina Sizer coached her through taking the blood pressure of classmate Autumn Wilson. “That was very hard,” Jordan said after she gave it a couple of tries. Jordan was part of a symposium held by the The Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute, a new program at Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women. The program aims cultivate the next generation of female leaders of color.
“We’re growing leaders,” said Linda Dickey, chair of the program. Saturday’s symposium focused on the health care field, with all of the panelists and facilitators being women of color. Its purpose was to encourage the students to explore career paths in health care, as well as provide them with an opportunity to network with role models in the field. While it was sponsored by the Speranza Institute, it was open to all Mercy students.
This event was held in collaboration with the Black Physician’s Network and Rochester Black Nurses Association. Wilhelmina Sizer, who was coaching Ava Jordan on taking blood pressure, was a member of the latter. The organization holds community events such as blood pressure screenings, she said, and helps mentor upcoming nurses who are people of color.
“There’s definitely a need in our community,” she said. People of color have issues with access to health care as well as knowledge deficits, she said, and nurses of color help bridge that gap.
Jordan said she liked getting the hands-on experience, but was leaning toward a career in criminal justice. One reason she was unsure about medicine was that she didn’t like the idea of having someone’s life in her hands.
“When you become a part of that action, it’s a thrill,” replied Linda Collins, a registered nurse who has worked in cardiology for 12 years. She assured Jordan that in a hospital, many people are involved in saving a life. “Everybody has a role to play.”
The rest of the symposium included hands-on sessions on sutures, heart dissection and treating bleeding. It also had panels about career paths in medicine. The Cheryl Speranza Leadership Institute at Mercy honors Cheryl Speranza, a 1965 Mercy graduate who died of pancreatic cancer in March 2018 and had a passion for serving others. The institute includes mentoring, tutoring, networking and other support for emerging leaders from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, including those with limited financial and emotional support. The program currently has 12 members.