Immersive summer program allows high school students to explore careers in healthcare

The University’s Summer Academy of Health Professions provided a wide variety of fun, engaging and hands-on opportunities for participants to learn and experience a variety of potential career paths.

September 7, 2021

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

The University’s Summer Academy of Health Professions provided high school students with an opportunity to learn about a variety of potential career paths.

When Santiago Gomez ’23 was in high school, he volunteered as an emergency medical technician. He loved the fast-paced nature of the job and he loved being able to help so many patients.

Now a paramedicine student at New Haven University, Gomez envisions a career in health care. This summer, he shared his passion for the field with high school students, as a teaching assistant for the University’s Summer Academy of Health Professions.

“What I enjoyed the most was seeing the students find the career path they wanted to pursue,” he said. “One student had never even heard of a medical laboratory scientist, and after the program she said she wanted to be. Hope the students have learned how much work it takes to be a paramedic and how fast the career is. ”

students in the laboratory.

Professor Joseph Soto teaches students how to practice CPR.

“Expose students to a wide range of clinical and non-clinical health professions”

A summer program for students in Grades 9-12, the academy was run by members of the University’s School of Health Sciences, including students such as Gomez, faculty and staff . Students who completed the program earned three college credits – the equivalent of the University’s Introduction to Health Professions course. They also obtained their CPR certification from the Yale Center for EMS.

Student learning to take blood pressure.

Michele Smallidge, Ed.D., RD, and Santiago Gomez ’23 (right) show a student how to take a patient’s blood pressure.

As part of the program, Jessica Holzer, Ph.D., assistant professor of health sciences, led a simulation that taught students about the spread of disease and the importance of public health professionals. Michele Smallidge, Ed.D., RD, taught students how to design and complete a fitness program.

Other University faculty members including Michael Urban, OTD, MBA, MS, and Laura M. Silva, MS CCC-SLP, taught students about accessibility, speech therapy, and ethics, and they taught them how to take a patient’s blood pressure and check a pulse.

Samantha Morales, ’18 MHA, Acting Director of the University’s Masters in Health Care Administration program and internship coordinator for the School of Health Sciences led the summer academy. She hopes the program has broadened the interests and career possibilities of the students.

“My goal with the Health Professions Summer Academy has always been to expose students to a wide range of clinical and non-clinical health professions,” she said. “Often when people think of health care, they immediately think of a doctor or nurse. While these professions are essential to the health and well-being of our communities, there are many other health professions that help people as well.

“I would have liked … I could have attended a program like this”

As part of the academy, students explored a variety of healthcare career paths including dental hygiene, public health, nutrition, and dietetics. They participated in hands-on activities, visited Griffin Hospital and participated in a scavenger hunt; learn how to take dental impressions and x-rays at the University’s Dental Hygiene Center; and make heart-healthy granola bars. Using virtual reality technology, the students also discovered the human body.

students in the laboratory.

The program was led by members of the University’s School of Health Sciences.

“By the end of the week, a lot of students ended up falling in love with careers they hadn’t heard of before,” Gomez said. “Some of them decided they wanted to pursue a whole different career in healthcare.”

The academy was also a learning opportunity for Gomez. As a teaching assistant, he coordinated with medical professionals, created a page on Canvas so students could reflect on what they learned each day, and designed the academy shirts. He says it was a hands-on opportunity to learn about the planning required for such a program and that it allowed him to develop his communication and organizational skills. He hopes the students have learned as much from attending the weeklong academy.

“Programs like the Summer Health Professions Academy are important for high school students because they can offer them advice that they might not otherwise have had,” he said. “I wish that when I was in high school I could have taken a program like this in order to be better prepared for the health field. “

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