(1) Dr. Nana Afoh-Manin (Dr. BAM) is a community-focused emergency physician, social entrepreneur and humanitarian disaster relief consultant with a long track record as an equity champion in higher education (Photos from Shared Harvest Fund)

With COVID-19 in effect for more than two years, healthcare professionals have been subjected to extraordinary testing. But, even with an increased need for frontline workers, many still believe there is an urgent need for more people of color in health care. People who aspire to work in the medical professions often face the challenge of having hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt after graduation.

This is what led to the creation of Shared Harvest Fund. A social enterprise founded by Dr. NanaEfua Afoh-Manin and her colleagues, Dr. Briana DeCuir and Dr. Joanne Moreau, this organization is the only one of its kind to offer an incentive program for student debt relief during the pandemic.

The Shared Harvest Fund creates equitable opportunities for higher education by leveraging empathy-driven technology to provide borrowers the opportunity to be leaders serving their own neighborhoods while reducing their burden student loans. Their unique form of loan forgiveness offers borrowers the privilege of improving their mental health by not having to worry about loan debt or taking resources from communities in need.

The organization started four years ago as a volunteer management platform that was akin to “Tindr meets the Peace Corps,” connecting people with nonprofits, and has introduced a rewards program that allowed people to work in exchange for paying off their student loans.

Shared Harvest Fund is built on four pillars: financial equity, health equity, digital equity and education. These platforms are interdependent, especially with regard to the difficulties in finding healthcare professionals of color.

“There is a network,” Dr. Bam said, “but it’s hard to find! Indeed, the pipeline for obtaining BIPOC providers at school and graduates is very narrow. With most of our young professionals being first-generation college students as well as first-generation physicians, physician assistants (physician assistants), and nurses, people fail to mention that six-figure student debt they carry with them. and which also limits their place of practice. and to whom they provide services.

(2) Founders of Shared Harvest: Dr. NanaEfua Afoh-Manin, Dr. Briana DeCuir and Dr. Joanna Moreau (Photos by Shared Harvest Fund)

Dr. Bam specifically went on to mention how Shared Harvest takes an honest look at Black women’s debt due to student loans.

“Black women face the highest percentage of student debt of any other group, yet we have the highest volunteer record. Our hours of service by equivalence to our working hours are much higher than the other groups.

She also says that “with health care having to undergo a complete transformation to make it equitable, we already know who will be on the front lines. You can’t ask black women to be on the front line without taking care of their backline, which is student loans.

Dr. Bam went on to explain that with the Shared Harvest Fund’s active program to reduce student loans in real time, while actively advancing into the medical profession, more people will be interested and committed to improving care. health.

Since the start of the pandemic, Shared Harvest Fun has focused more on health tech and working to improve resources for communities of color. They even went so far as to create a telehealth app, myCOVIDmd.

“With the pandemic, most people are getting health insurance or accessing providers through telehealth services. However, it usually takes about six weeks to see the medical professional you need, or even get your medical insurance. Our telehealth app is a free public health platform that connects users to a network of providers ranging from GPs to OGYNs to PAs,” said Dr NanaEfua Afor-Manin, also known as Dr. Bam, at the Los Angeles Sentinel.

This application provides the service of simply answering people’s medical questions. Dr. Bam and his colleagues temporarily provided people with “health homes” where they helped provide prescriptions, found out where clients could get tested for specific medical conditions, and even spoke to providers to make sure conversations on relatives in hospitals were clear and understood.

“We became that bridge and naturally realized that color providers care about people getting lost in the shuffle and falling through the cracks. We were creating a need that goes beyond the pandemic, so our app aims to provide access to services to those in need,” Dr. Bam explained.

Shared Harvest Fund has also worked to give back to their communities by hosting pop-up COVID testing block parties in Los Angeles neighborhoods.

“We hire DJs and play music, and people come together to connect while getting information and news. We’ve noticed in COVID, that black people often talk to neighbors or friends about their health care before calling a doctor. These block parties were intentional to get the block out and inform people with correct information about COVID, so when they talk about it and spread news, that’s okay.

These events were created to debunk myths and let people know that there is an organization dedicated to building trusted networks with communities in need. They held about eight pop-up events, tested more than 30,000 people and administered 8,000 vaccines.

As Shared Harvest Fund is an organization started by black women, these entrepreneurs have faced challenges alongside their successful journey.

“Black Girl Gold is amazing, but it’s not easy to get,” Dr. Bam said as she discussed the issues of building the right team. “People don’t always understand the work it takes to create impact. You have to be selective in who you build with.

However, even with that, Dr. Bam is proud of her organization as well as the hard work she and her parents put into their mission. “We designed this organization to fill a gap and stay strong within our community. I think we do it well.

As 2022 continues, Shared Harvest hopes to secure $20 million in student debt relief by the end of the year. Dr. Bam and his colleagues are also working to eliminate frontline volunteer debt and better educate people about health care legislation.

“We want a seat at the committee table. We won’t stop until we get there.

For more information on Shared Harvest Fund, or one of their pop-up parties, visit: https://www.sharedharvestfund.org.