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For Immediate Release
October 20, 2021

LOUISIANA HEALTH LEADERS MENTOR NEXT-GENERATION PROFESSIONALS

The Baton Rouge Clinic, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation (BCBSLA), and Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University (FranU) are partnering to offer local students an in-depth look at healthcare and the chance to earn a scholarship. Over sixty Baton Rouge area students in the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition (BRYC) were selected to participate in this year’s Health Fellows program.

Launched by The Clinic and BRYC in 2020, Health Fellows aims to demystify the process by which students transform into healthcare professionals, thus promoting greater representation and equity in the field. In its inaugural year, the program hosted a monthly speaker series and awarded six scholarships totaling $50,000 furnished by The Clinic to four college and two high school students pursuing
health-related degrees.

The Clinic’s Drs. Mike Rolfsen and Jewell Crockett oversaw last year’s cohort. “We (The Clinic) recognize the need to help diversify the healthcare workforce and are excited to expand the opportunities available to BRYC students through education, scholarships, and our ability to bring partners to the table,” Dr. Rolfsen said. “We are extremely pleased that Blue Cross and FranU will be joining us. The synergy of an active medical practice, an outstanding insurance company, and a university specializing in healthcare degrees should create an experience that incentivizes and engages students who might not otherwise consider a career in allied health.”

Chris Hilliard, diversity, equity, and inclusion partner at BCBSLA, shared that Health Fellows is centered around initiatives BCBSLA prioritizes. “As an organization focused on ensuring equitable and inclusive operations within our workplace and the communities we serve, we felt compelled to support BRYC and some of the great work they are doing here in Louisiana. This partnership allows us to directly serve underrepresented communities by helping address both the need for career opportunities and healthcare disparities in our state.”

Students will opt into one of three tracks based on their interests and aspirations. Dr. Crockett will focus on the day-to-day activities of direct patient caregivers. Hilliard will introduce students to the business of health services and the data driving preventative care. Esther Penns, director of academic advising at FranU, will cover behavioral and occupational health.

“Intentional and focused formation of our future healthcare professionals is vital to the overall success and health of our communities,” Penns explained. “FranU’s partnership with BRYC is an incredible opportunity to live out our mission of preparing highly skilled professionals, integrated thinkers, and faith-filled citizens while providing unique exposure and education to the Health Fellows in their process of vocational discernment.”

The 2021-2022 cohort boasts 49 ninth-12th graders and 14 college students—six times the size of last year’s class. Applicants’ career interests range from pediatric nursing and neurosurgery to biomedical engineering and 3D-printed prosthetics. All students who complete the program will be eligible for scholarships next spring.

Allie Diefendorf, BRYC’s director of upperclassmen learning, shared, “BRYC students are showing us they’re eager for this knowledge and have a desire to learn from expert teachers. We’re grateful to be supported by accomplished, compassionate professionals who can take Fellows to the next level.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana has worked for over 80 years to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation is a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that, with the company, invests around $5 million in the nonprofits that serve Louisiana.

The Baton Rouge Clinic is a premier, multi-specialty clinic, offering a comprehensive range of outstanding medical services to families throughout Baton Rouge and the surrounding region.

Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University engages students in an educational experience that cultivates the spirit of scholarly inquiry, ongoing reflection, and a commitment to life-long learning and service.

The Baton Rouge Youth Coalition prepares high-achieving, under-resourced high school students to enter, excel, and graduate from college. BRYC currently serves 285 high school students across 45 schools and 510 alumni.