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HELP is a Family Affair

HelpThe benefits of inclusivity and collaboration in medicine are central to a new program started by three siblings to train tomorrow’s healthcare leaders. Sharon Lockett, a patient services representative for the Clinical Practices of the University of Pennsylvania located at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, her brother, L. Mark Lockett, and sister, Michelle Lockett, have teamed up with Physical Trainer Thurston Owen to create a new program that provides young people with information and tools to follow in their footsteps.

For this group of inspired health care professionals, the journey began when they were teenagers, attending the Health Academy at Bright Hope Baptist Church. It was there that they were inspired to pursue their current careers. Founded by the late Leonard Johnson, MD, the Health Academy and its range of programs ended in 2000.

Now years after graduation and well into their health professions, Michelle, L. Mark, and Thurston founded The Health Exposure Longevity Project, Inc. (HELP) to fill that void and direct their energy back to an organization that gave so much to them.

HELP supplements the Church’s Health Academy summer camp as a free, 12-session mentoring program for 20 African American and Latino youth, ages 5-14 years old, who are interesting in pursuing a career in health care. As part of the program, the kids are taught how to manage their own health.

As black female health professionals, Sharon and Michelle, who is also HELP’s executive director, see the program as a way of paying it forward to the predominantly minority community that gave them direction and support years ago.

For example, it was mentorship at the Church’s Health Academy by Loretta Sweet Jemmott, PhD, FAAN, RN, of the Penn School of Nursing that led Michelle to a nursing career.

The sisters already see the program expanding to new areas.

Sharon recently received a Penn Medicine CAREs grant for the HELP program. The grant funds journals and offiffi ce supplies, healthy meals for participants (as part of healthy eating workshops), use of the Church facility, Zumba dance classes, and a small honorarium for guest speakers. Knowing health care maintenance and disease prevention techniques can make a strong difference in a community’s health, the group says. As part of the program, these vital lessons are outlined in a number of interactive sessions.

“We wanted to take what was done with Health Academy and tweak it a bit with HELP,” said Sharon. “We oft en try to show what you can do with different health care positions and degrees. For example, ’this is a radiology technician, physician assistant, X-ray technician, doctor, and this is how they got there.’ It’s about seeing the children that you’ve helped and the fruits of your labor in their success.”

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