Sports medicine specialist Austin Krohn, MD, presented a shoulder x-ray to a room filled with elementary school children to seasoned medical residents. A few moments later, an eighth grader leaned forward and was able to identify a shoulder separation from a mere discoloration on the film.

This type of instance is what Family Medicine Physician Renee Crichlow, MD, dreamed of six years ago when she created the Ladder, a non-profit program that addresses the shortage of healthcare providers in North Minneapolis by mentoring and training disadvantaged minority children and inspiring them to become doctors and nurses.

Crichlow’s goal for the Ladder was to create a supportive yet challenging culture for their residents since becoming a physician requires a high-level of resilience. Per its name, the Ladder provides support each step of the way throughout the program. Everyone is both a mentor to someone at a lower rung and has a mentor of their own, just one level above. This fosters a supportive environment and helps to ensure that everyone feels valued and respected. 

The lack of healthcare professionals in North and Northeast Minneapolis has been a problem for years. Although locals are best suited to fill those roles, the lack of support and financial resources make it challenging to get Minneapolis youth interested in training. For this reason the Ladder aims to start with children as early as the age of nine, when they are still excited to learn. 

The Ladder’s graduates have seen success; Christopher Allen had been with the program from the start. This spring he graduated high school and now plans to pursue gastroenterology.  Halima Abdi and her family moved to the U.S. in 2003, and with the help of the Ladder, she is finally able to pursue her dream career in nursing. Both agree the Ladder was responsible for kickstarting their interest in medicine, and they feel confident leaving the Ladder with “so much more knowledge than when [they] went in.”