If You Can See It, You Can Be It: Mentoring Future Leaders from Underrepresented Minorities to Tackle Health Care Disparities

March 20, 2021

View from the C-Suite: John W. Bluford III, Founder and President, Bluford Healthcare Leadership Institute

// By Ndome Yvonne Essoka //

John Bluford was inspired by his own mid-career program at Harvard to become a mentor, and then went on to create a mentorship program for high-achieving African American students. The program seeks to develop future health care leaders from among minority populations that are typically underrepresented in health care organizations, with the goal of eliminating health care disparities.

A few seminal moments led to the genesis of the Bluford Healthcare Leadership Institute (BHLI). Marketed as an intense professional development program, BHLI has a self-proclaimed mission to “eliminate health care disparities among minority and vulnerable populations by cultivating a pipeline of culturally competent under-represented scholars for leadership roles in health care.”

John W. Bluford III, founder and president, Bluford Healthcare Leadership Institute

John W. Bluford III, founder and president, Bluford Healthcare Leadership Institute

John W. Bluford III, founder and president of BHLI, has credentials that speak for themselves. He held the CEO title at Hennepin County Medical Center and Truman Medical Centers (TMC) for a combined total of 21 years.

Bluford’s goal in founding BHLI was to develop scholars to one day “envision themselves walking into rooms full of staff and taking command of those rooms.”

His journey to the creation of BHLI began in 1981 when at the behest of his former employer, Hennepin County Medical Center, he attended Harvard University’s six-week Mid-Careerist Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There the then-junior executive became aware of the inner workings of health care policy. The program placed Bluford in not only an upward trajectory on his career path but also imbued in him the spirit of mentorship — one that would later present life-changing career opportunities for many future CEOs.

In the years to come, Bluford’s passion for mentorship would lead him to take on an additional role as a preceptor for graduate students at the University of Minnesota, the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri. In this role, he mentored various students who needed to complete internships to fulfill graduation requirements.

Of all the students that Bluford mentored, he noticed one glaring disparity — a lack of minority students. They were not in the pipeline.

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