Education and Health Care

Schools construct Health Careers Pipeline program

MSU med school and GVSU partner with Grand Rapids students.

February 13, 2015
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Health Pipeline
Michigan State University College of Human Medicine student Miguel Joaquin, left, guides Innovation Central High School student Jude Eyamba, middle, through a blood pressure screening on Grand Valley State University student John Wesley. Courtesy MSU College of Human Medicine

Three area academic institutions are rolling out an innovative program designed to empower high school students to pursue careers in the health professions with the help of college and medical student mentors.

Officials from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Grand Valley State University and Grand Rapids Public Schools recently announced a collaborative eight-week Health Careers Pipeline program to introduce high school students to career opportunities in the health sciences during a press conference at the MSU Secchia Center in Grand Rapids.

The Health Careers Pipeline program is designed to provide students from Innovation Central High School’s Academy of Health, Sciences and Technology with an engaging, hands-on experience as they learn about health careers, how to navigate the collegiate environment to achieve their goals, and how to improve their own health and wellness.

Brian Ulrich, program director of the Health Careers Pipeline from MSU, said exposure to health professions, mentorship and improving health and wellness are the three overarching goals of the program.

“We really believe the combination of teaching, mentoring and components of health and wellness will allow the students who participate in this program to be part of an engaging, hands-on, enrichment experience that will develop confidence and a support system in their journey into higher education and beyond,” said Ulrich.

Teresa Weatherall Neal, superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools, said the new partnership with MSU, GVSU and the Academy of Health, Sciences and Technology is evidence of the community coming together to improve academic outcomes for GRPS students.

During the eight-week curriculum, a cohort of nine Innovation Central High School students will have a weekly session after school to meet with mentors at the Secchia Center. Mentors include health profession students from GVSU and medical students from MSU.

The Health Careers Pipeline program incorporates such sessions as: career exploration with guest speakers and an introduction of a creative expression project; research, with a tour of the Van Andel Institute and a presentation from psychiatrist Eric Achtyes; and nutrition, which includes a trip to the Downtown Market and a cooking class.

As a community-based medical school, Ulrich said MSU is committed to expanding its efforts to identify, retain and develop a robust pipeline of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and from medically underserved communities who have a desire to work in the health professions.

“There is a lack of programs that exist for the sole purpose of identifying and developing students whose aspirations or access to careers in the health professions may be comprised given economic, geographic or education disadvantages, so this program we designed with the explicit intent of having elements of career exploration and person growth for this group of students,” said Ulrich.

“Every single one of our mentors also comes from a similar background in that they are from disadvantaged backgrounds of some sort, so they can really help in navigating this journey for the students.”

Jean Nagelkirk, vice provost for health at GVSU, said the university is pleased to work with MSU College of Human Medicine and GRPS to roll out the program.

“This is a great opportunity for our students to help mentor, to help them explore college and to help them explore health and wellness,” said Nagelkirk.

“We are excited that 11 of our pre-med students are here and they meet every week for eight weeks to mentor their students, answer any questions and actually talk about success tips to put them on the right direction.”

Faculty and staff from GVSU’s Kirkoff College of Nursing and College of Health Professions also will participate in the program and discuss career options. GVSU offers 52 health programs, including physician assistant, nursing, biomedical engineering, speech language pathology and public health.

Wanda Lipscomb, senior associate dean of diversity and inclusion and associate dean of student affairs at MSU College of Human Medicine, said the partnership allows the medical school to do tremendous work and she is excited to have such wonderful educational partners in the community.

“We are very excited to start a health career pipeline program because it is a collaborative effort. This is our opportunity to impact West Michigan in a really significant way,” said Lipscomb. “What will make this program really special is having our medical students, who are so committed to service and engagement, interacting with undergraduate students from Grand Valley, who are also committed to that same type of engagement, and having them share their stories with our high school students.”

The program may hopefully result in more local students staying in the community.

Jerry Kooiman, assistant dean of external relations at MSU College of Human Medicine, said preparing students from the West Michigan community for their entrance into undergraduate and medical school will result in the likelihood of the students coming back to practice in the community.

“These are all bright kids and they can compete in many ways, but sometimes they need people to come alongside of them to guide them and show them the way.

“The path through undergraduate to medical school is not a clearly defined route,” said Kooiman. “There is a lot of cost associated, a lot of hard work and preparation to make sure you are taking the right classes in high school and the right classes in college.

“We are training the future physicians from the community, for the community.”

The first cohort from Innovation Central High School’s Academy of Health, Sciences and Technology includes sophomore, junior and senior students. The program is expected to include a cohort of students from each grade by next year, according to a press release.

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