The Bay Area is a place that will forever have my heart …but you know what makes it what it truly is? It’s people. Actually, that’s exactly what sparks my creativity. It’s others' energy. The interactions I have with those around me… especially with fellow bay natives from all walks of life.
What better way to share this story than in collaboration with Oakland Unified School District. Their student community is full of talented and creative next generation leaders, and they have given me an opportunity to connect with my new friend, Osiris.
He’s a fellow foodie and current Senior at Oakland School of the Arts. Osiris is creative at heart with a soul for health care, sparked from his own personal experiences as a patient growing up. He’s finishing up the school year and heading to UC Davis this fall to study Pre-Med and Psychology. Additionally, he's a current Student Intern in Alameda Health System’s HEAL Program.
The HEAL Internship Program
The HEAL internship program is a partnership between Oakland Unified School District, Alameda Health System, and the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency. It was created to provide a pathway for middle school and high school students to break into the fast-growing healthcare sector. Through internships, students like Osiris gain hands-on experience in their local hospitals and shadow nurses and doctors. In addition to mentorship, the program provides the students with the skills and knowledge they need to blaze the trail in their future healthcare careers.
Catching Up with Osiris
Last week, I met up with Osiris for lunch in Oakland to chat and learn more about his passions, his ambitions and why the HEAL Program impacted his life. His words speak for themselves. After we finished our Chicken Tikka Masala bowls at Curry Up Now, we caught up more in-depth. Here’s a snippet from our conversation.
KD: Tell me a little bit about yourself!
OH: I’m Osiris. I’m 17. I’m someone who's really into different types of art since I was little. I used to do theater. I like to write. I like to draw. I’m also a huge reader and movie fan. I’ve got a huge range of movies I like. I grew up in Richmond, and have been going to school out here in Oakland since my mom works in the area.
KD: Very cool. I grew up in the Bay too! Sounds like you have a lot of different ways you love to be creative. If you could pick one medium for the rest of your life, what would you pick, and why?
OH: I think graphic design… because posters give an immediate reaction. Film, animation and other types of media are great too, but messages from those take a little bit longer to perceive. But with posters, you have such an immediate reaction to them and it’s so important in art...especially in political art… art that’s meant to tell stories. Graphic design does that the best and allows me to take on multiple projects at once.
KD: You were inspired by art at an early age right? Also, what are some other things that make you smile?
OH: Yeah, I grew up in an environment where art was supported and talked about a lot. Like, my uncle is 60 and still in a band. Art was always pushed as something that was good. It’s so interesting. When most people grow up and tell their parents “I want to be an Artist”, they say “No, you should become a doctor.” But my parents were the opposite. I told them, “I don’t want to be an artist, I want to be a doctor” and they were like “Whaaat?”
OH: Things that make me happy include spending time with my friends and family. When I’m in an environment that supports my interests, that generally makes me a happier person.
KD: My dad has told me similar things: to stay creative and never lose touch with art no matter what. That’s awesome that your family is encouraging and push you to continue doing that along the way. You’re right, it does feel empowering when you’re in a supportive environment. Now, your love for art also intersects with your passion to pursue healthcare!
KD: How did you hear about the HEAL Program?
OH: My mom works at Highland Hospital and she had a student come in to shadow her through the program. He was really cool. He was nice. She knew I was interested in looking for health internships and health careers, so she told me about it. I did more research on it and talked to someone that did it. The HEAL Program has been around for a long time, they kinda revamped it. After that, I knew it was something I wanted to do, so I applied!
KD: Nice! So was the HEAL Program what inspired your deeper passion for healthcare?
OS: It was my own experiences dealing with doctors and surgeons from an early age. I had to get a couple surgeries and that was definitely was a factor. My mom is also in the health field, and I saw that. She is as a role model for someone who is in the medical field. Both of those played roles. I think that it interested me to work with pediatrics, and want to work with kids somehow.
KD: Did you have an AH-HA moment from the HEAL Program? A learning moment that made you realize you were in the right place?
OH: Yeah, definitely. I’ve done the HEAL Program for 2 years now. When I first started, I was in the Gastroenterology. That was my AH-HA moment for knowing I wanted to work in a hospital. That first department was one of my favorite departments because were so welcoming and nice. This year I’m in the OR, and I’ve been there all year. It’s so amazing.
I was able to see a neurosurgery 3-4 months ago, and got to be right next to the surgeon. He invited me back anytime I want. It was such a welcoming environment. That’s when I knew I wanted to do surgery.
KD: That’s awesome! You got to get into the scrubs and you’re already getting to see what it’s like inside an OR room. Sounds like HEAL is creating a pathway to see what it’s like, even before college. What’s your favorite part of the HEAL internship program?
OH: It’s changed. As an intern, I still get to go on rotation but I’m also a role model for the younger kids. I help teach the middle school students. That’s definitely my favorite part now, because I am a role model figure to a lot of the students and they’re all students of color. I think it’s really important. In my education system, I didn’t see a lot of black or people of color in the educational field. I think it’s important to have those role models for them.
KD: So we’ve touched the parts of the program you love. What about challenges? What’s a current barrier you’re going through towards success?
OH: I think the hardest part is juggling school and the program. I go three days a week, 2-6pm. I leave school early, so I’m not there for all my art time. I have to do my art assignments at home along with all my homework. I get home at 8:00pm ...so it’s a lot to manage myself. Sometimes I wake up early to get the work done. It’s hard.
KD: It is hard, but it sounds like you’re doing a great job at it! Keep it up! Can you tell me more about your dreams and ambitions?
OH: I want to go into pre-med and become a pediatric surgeon. It’s kinda changed as I’m watching more surgeries but I want to specialize in pediatric neurosurgery. There aren’t many black neurosurgeons… and it’s really interesting. After watching a few neuro surgeries I definitely want to do that but while still working with kids. I want to continue doing some kind of social justice work as well. Like those that mentored me, I can take high school and middle school students in with me to see surgeries. I want to work at a teaching hospital cause I love the aspect of teaching others and I also want to continue doing art of some sort too.
KD: It’s so great that you see a path where all your passions and interests intersect. Last but not least, who or what ultimately inspires you?
OS: Giving back to the community. My community really inspires me to continue and working with middle school students motivated me to do more. It’s the next group of students that will come after me. I want them to have better than I did, so I think that’s been a huge motivator.
Hanging out with Osiris sparked so many realizations. First, how much it reminded me of working with youth in the parks. It's been a few years, but when I spoke with Osiris, I felt oddly familiar and brought me back to memories from a very special time in my career. It’s essential that our communities create partnerships with local organizations. By doing so, we nurture a safe space for growth and build empowering pathways to help our next generation become future leaders, no matter what field they are pursuing.