NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — While many are looking beyond the pandemic, the New York City Health Department is addressing lessons learned, specifically as it relates to the disparities that were highlighted.

CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas has more on a new program aimed at addressing concerns.

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Twenty-year-old Ryan Doswell was chosen for the new public health career exploration program that paired him with mentor Christine Simon-Brown, a social epidemiologist.

“After I took a break from college, I decided let me try to figure out what career or what path I really want to follow,” Doswell said.

“I just wanted to show him a path through public health to help him decide if this is a career that he wants in the future,” Simon-Brown said.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

The internship, run by the city’s health department, was created by Nathifa Forde, deputy executive director of the New York City Young Men’s Initiative, and is a direct response to the devastation the pandemic had on communities of color, showing how public health, that was at the forefront of policies like wearing masks and social distancing, needed more diverse voices.

“Our young people really wanted to talk about mental health. They really wanted to talk about community health,” Forde said.

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Doswell is among one dozen explorers ranging from 16-24 years old.

Mainly Black and Latinx candidates were chosen from hard-hit communities in east and central Brooklyn, learning more about the disparities COVID only highlighted in health care and beyond.

“We can have a next generation of public health experts that we can tap into if we ever kind of undergo a pandemic again, and that people of color can have a voice in all of this,” Forde said.

After forming a bond by Zoom over two and half months, Doswell and Simon-Brown met for the first time in person.

“The future looks very bright. I’ve decided I’m going to try to go out for either information systems or computer science when I go back to college,” Doswell said.

The support made all the difference.

The internship ends on Friday. Now, Doswell is looking at different college programs and Simon-Brown says she will continue to help guide him every step of the way.

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The health department hopes to welcome a new cohort next spring and extend the program to include even more interns.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas