At age 18, Sharif Attia has nearly completed his associate’s degree and has solid work experience as a nutrition ambassador at HealthEast. Attia isn’t wasting any time as he pursues a career in health care.
During the fall semester of his junior year at St. Paul Central High School, Attia enrolled in a biology course at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) through the post secondary enrollment option. Attia, then 17, began his associate’s degree in biology in the midst of an already busy schedule. As an exceptional scholar, competitive swimmer, and community volunteer, he is clear about his ambitions.
“I take advantage of each opportunity. Some of my peers are fearful of hard work and the prospect of failing. I am not,” he said. “Instead, I focus on my long-term goals: helping people get better and attending dental school.”
One key to Attia’s success is the Central Corridor College (C3) Fellows program. The C3 Fellows program connects college students to healthcare providers along the Metro Transit Green Line to gain entry-level employment and necessary experience to be successful health care professionals. MCTC and Saint Paul College launched the first phase of C3 Fellows, and this year the program is expanding to include Augsburg College, St. Catherine University and Metropolitan State University students.
C3 Fellows is one key strategy for the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership to pursue its goal of hiring more local residents, especially in health care careers. In 2015, the Partnership met its initial goal to boost the percentage of local residents in the anchor institutions’ workforce by five points — from 13 percent to 18 percent — in five years.
Attia was raised in Alexandria, Egypt, along with his older brother, by his mother and father. His family decided to move to the United States when he was 13 years old. Attia’s parents instilled a deep commitment to education and career development in their sons. After a few days in the United States, their parents turned to their sons and asked where they would like to move. Attia and his brother chose Minnesota for its many highly ranked colleges and universities and employment opportunities in the Twin Cities.
By the end of 11th grade, he was taking classes at Central High School and earning college credits through coursework at MCTC, Saint Paul College, and Metropolitan State University. Supported by his parents and inspired by his brother’s academic diligence, Attia found the opportunity to become a C3 Fellow while attending courses at MCTC. He recalled how C3 Fellowship Program Director Brian Mogren was personable, motivating and enthusiastic when they first met at a career fair. Attia met regularly with Mogren to work on his resume, connect to networking events, and for interview tips.
One of the biggest lessons Attia learned as a C3 Fellow was to understand the importance of building and maintaining professional connections. At one of their regular meetings, Mogren encouraged Attia to apply for a position at St. Joseph’s Hospital, in the HealthEast Care System of hospitals, to be a nutrition ambassador for patients experiencing different disabilities. With Mogren’s encouragement, Attia found the opportunity to bridge his academic interests in biology, career aspirations as a dentist, and personal commitment to patient care with his C3 Fellow job at St. Joseph’s.
As a nutrition ambassador, Attia had the opportunity to interact with patients from diverse cultural backgrounds and languages. He was challenged by the need to adapt his style of interacting with patients. Every individual had a special dietary regime that needed to be explained to the patient.
Cultural Competency and Patient Outcomes
Attia embraced these challenges at St. Joseph’s Hospital. As an aspiring dentist, he acknowledged how important this experience was for him.
“Whether you are speaking with a patient about nutrition or oral health, communication is key to providing the highest quality health care,” he reflected. “That is the most important role of any health care provider. Every culture is unique and as an aspiring dentist, I know that this C3 Fellowship position at St. Joseph’s Hospital will serve me well for a very long time.”
Attia graduated from high school in May 2016 and is only a few credits away from completing his associate’s degree in biology. Attia has set himself up for success; he will be able to complete his bachelor of science degree in biology within just a couple of years. The C3 Fellowship has energized his aspirations to attend dental school and continue to offer patients the highest level of health care. In the end, he says that his goals haven’t changed since he was a young boy in Egypt — “I just want to help people get better.”