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Health sciences pipeline

Photo by Ashley Barnas and Alyssa Benjamin

College of Health Sciences Pipeline Program engages local high school students to inspire future healthcare workforce

The University of Delaware College of Health Sciences (CHS) is expanding engagement locally by giving high school students a jumpstart as they prepare for college. With a focus on Delawareans and underrepresented students, the UD College of Health Sciences Pipeline Program exposes middle and high school students to the breadth of health sciences career choices and aids in preparation for the academic rigor of higher education. A goal is to recruit and develop highly educated professionals — the future local leaders of the healthcare profession. Investing in these students provides opportunities for them to be competitive and better prepared for college.

“This is one piece of creating a diverse workforce,” said CHS Dean Kathleen Matt. “Healthcare is delivered to individuals from a broad range of backgrounds and it’s important that we have a workforce in Delaware that reflects those we serve as they deliver quality care.”

Matt is leading by example. At Newark High School, she’s taught Introduction to Health Sciences, a dual-credit course for 26 juniors and seniors. The course explores the interaction between healthcare professionals, government policy and individual demand for healthcare as the industry works towards long-term solutions to healthcare challenges.

“We wanted to create a class and a pipeline because these students are the ones who help us reimagine what effective healthcare really looks like,” Matt said. “We wanted to reach back further to get them engaged sooner so that they see the possibilities and opportunities available to them. It’s important for high school students to get a glimpse into what it will be like in college. That’s why we chose the format of having them engage with University faculty and community partners.”

And Newark students have really taken to the course.

“The class is very eye-opening of what a college course is. It’s very different from a high school class,” Newark student Micah Howard-Sparks said. “We have guest speakers who give lectures on their jobs, their life, their education and what they are doing to improve the healthcare of our country.”

In the spring semester, the same students will take another CHS class, Introduction to Medical Laboratory Sciences. The juniors in the class will then have a chance to take two additional CHS courses during their senior year.

In true Delaware fashion, the connections run deep. Matt is a Newark High School graduate. Her passion for UD and her high school alma mater blend perfectly in this unique course.

“I grew up in this community,” she said. “To me, it goes without saying that a school like Newark High School, which is right in the neighborhood of our University, should benefit from engaging with UD. The University should add value to its community.”

Growing the pipeline

Now in its second full year, the CHS Pipeline Program is more than dual-credit courses. The endeavor started at Saint Mark’s High School, which is now in its second year offering UD health sciences courses. In addition to adding classes at Newark, the college now offers a mentoring component with Connecting Generations, a health sciences summer camp, loads of field trips to UD’s STAR Campus, and an enhanced partnership with HOSA Future Health Professionals — an international student organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. HOSA, which stands for Health Occupations Students of America, promotes career opportunities in the healthcare industry. The college signed an agreement with the Delaware Department of Education, which runs Delaware HOSA in public schools throughout the state, to take a very active role. This work includes events throughout the state and culminates with the HOSA State Leadership Conference, which takes places in STAR Health Sciences Complex in the spring and brings approximately 900 high school students to UD.

To buoy the continued growth of the program, the college added a pipeline program coordinator, UD alumna Alyssa Benjamin, who manages the program’s many components.

So what’s next for the UD College of Health Sciences Pipeline Program? As Benjamin said, it’s getting to students even earlier.

“At this point, we primarily interact with upper-level, high school students. We want to reach students earlier in high school and at the middle and elementary school level,” said Benjamin, who graduated from Appoquinimink High School. “It takes time, but we’re building lots of great relationships around the state. If we’re going to be successful in addressing healthcare workforce issues, we need the best and brightest Delawareans from all backgrounds studying at UD and entering the local workforce.”

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