Here at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, one of the ways staff members are encouraged to show they care is by extending themselves. Outpatient Physical Therapist Brian Chen, DPT, is doing just that, lending his time to the YMCA of Greater Boston’s Y ACHIEVERS program.
The Y ACHIEVERS program helps youth in seventh through twelfth grade discover and pursue higher educational and career goals by equipping them with the skills needed to succeed and be community role models. The goals of the program are to expose youth to career and college knowledge through the lens of professionals who look like them; help youth develop individual talents, a positive sense of self and leadership ability; and motivate participants to raise their academic performance, succeed in school and gain marketable skills. The program invites community members to mentor the youth in the program. They meet twice a month for five-hour sessions devoted to skills and life skills.
“I grew up in a town that was 97 percent white. From a young age, I was very aware that I looked different from my peers and that my home life was different than my peers’ home lives,” says Chen. “I didn’t have a role model who looked like me that I could relate to, so the fact that the Y ACHIEVERS program emphasizes recruiting mentors of color is wonderful and I am happy to be among them.”
Chen says his goal as a mentor is to help kids of color understand the barriers they may confront as they grow up and pursue careers, but also to know that they are not alone and there are resources available. “These kids are still trying to figure out how to navigate the world around them,” he says. “These kids are the future, which I know sounds cheesy but it’s true. For me, it’s very meaningful to be part of helping them prepare for their futures and be successful.”
In addition to his work with the Y ACHIEVERS program, Chen volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and sits on BWFH’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee. “Over the last few years, there seems to be more awareness of that fact that we don’t all look the same and that plays into our roles as healthcare providers,” says Chen. “I am optimistic that things are moving in the right direction and I’m happy to be involved in confronting systemic racism within the healthcare system and our community as a whole.”
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