African Nova Scotians are a large racially visible group in Nova Scotia. The current workforce, including health care, is not representative of the diversity that exists in Nova Scotia. PLANS was established in 2013 with the goal to increase the number of African Nova Scotians within the fields of health, medicine and dentistry. PLANS works to achieve this goal through many recruitment and retention activities that aim to expose youth to the various health programs, assist with navigating the application process and provide support across their academic journey. Recently the PLANS program manager position has become a permanent position at Dalhousie University. This strengthens Dalhousie’s commitment to this program and the priorities for healthcare in the region.
The work of PLANS has been enhanced by the funding received from the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, which has aided in the development of programs as well as bursaries and scholarships to reduce barriers and to increase the enrollment of Indigenous Atlantic Canadians and African Nova Scotian students who are engaged in the study of Health, Dentistry and Medicine.
How my journey informs my work with PLANS
I am very honored to be able to continue the very important work that PLANS has undertaken as the now permanent PLANS Program Manager. Having grown up in rural Nova Scotia and experiencing firsthand the barriers of navigating post-secondary, I know how important this program is. Lack of awareness of resources, limited knowledge of what programs are offered and the financial impact of attending post-secondary, especially in a new urban area can be overwhelming. Being the first in your family to attend post-secondary you don’t often have the supports or resources in place to be able to do so easily, and it can be a deterrent for many, including me. Attending university was not an immediate option for me following high school, and it required attending community college and working before I was able to pursue university myself. I reflect on the programs and initiatives that PLANS offers and the impact that it would have had on my own career progression if it had been in place at that time. This is what motivates me to ensure the work we do with PLANS has the largest reach possible to make sure we are capturing youth like myself who did not have the support or resources to navigate post-secondary.
I believe that my educational and professional journey lends great insight into areas for future development. I have had the opportunity to work in varied roles within health care and to work with many others on interprofessional teams in various settings. I am able to draw upon those experiences to inform some of the programs and supports that are offered through PLANS. My experience working in community health systems as well as within the schools affords me better insight into how those areas can interact and how to best collaborate when looking to deliver programs for PLANS in the future.
The PLANS goal of creating a more diverse health care workforce has always been important to me. The ability for members of our African Nova Scotian community to feel represented and comfortable to receive health care services is important as is the importance of our youth to experience this. For our African Nova Scotian youth to be able to see themselves represented in various roles throughout the spectrum of health care (health educators, practitioners, those in leadership roles) is important to let the youth know that this career path is within their reach.
My vision for the upcoming year
The challenges of COVID-19 over the spring and into the summer has changed the way that PLANS has traditionally operated. A key component of the PLANS program has been our summer camps, which allow youth to experience the various health programs in a very experiential way. It gives them the opportunity to become familiar with some of the local universities, faculty and students, which is key to assisting potential students to feel comfortable. This year we have shifted how we engage with youth to an online virtual platform. This change affords us the option to reach more youth in ways that our traditional camps could not allow.
In the upcoming year I look forward to the opportunities for growth and reinvention that this change has brought. My passion has always centered around providing opportunities to African Nova Scotian youth in rural areas, and my continued goal is to identify additional and innovative ways that PLANS can engage and support these youth. I am excited to continue the work of PLANS and look forward to many of the upcoming projects and collaborations PLANS has in the upcoming year. I am so thankful that I get to be a small part of a students’ journey and to be able to support their educational goals.
PLANS seeks to increase representation of African Nova Scotians in the health professions through recruitment and retention, community collaborations and partnerships to improve health outcomes within the African Nova Scotian community. PLANS offers programming, provides resources, and attends community and school events to provide health career support and preparation. Learn more here!