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Students from disadvantaged communities get insight into healthcare careers

Florida Atlantic University is providing medical-field opportunities for high school students who attend classes in Port St. Lucie and Lake Worth. Those interested in a health care career can experience what it takes to be a successful nursing or medical student.

The FAU Healthcare Outreach Program, supported by the College of Biomedical Science, helps prepare students from disadvantaged communities to successfully compete at the highest levels of college and post-graduate studies.

The goal of the program is to “increase the opportunities in the health sciences field for young people served by FAU campuses, including underrepresented and underserved minorities in South Florida,” director Mark Goldstein said.

The program debuted in the 2008-2009 school year, and 20 students from the 10th grade were selected for the program based on grade-point average and the quality of two essays.

Every Saturday, FAU buses the students to the Boca Raton campus, where they are exposed to many life-changing moments, including the examination of human cadavers and working with the advanced training mannequins that professional health care specialists also use.

While the medical sciences are at the core of all activities, Goldstein said he has found the program has helped facilitation teaching independent or small group learning and has improved the students’ communication and observation skills.

The youngsters also engage in team building exercises that move them out of their comfort zones. For example, one day of training is set aside for the students to navigate a rope course maintained by the FAU Climbing Club.

“We also help the students focus on their spring SATs, because that is their ticket to success, program coordinator Gloria Zimmerman said. The program provides one-on-one math and reading preparation to ensure that the students will score well and be more competitive in their admission and scholarship applications.

The outreach program’s design is based on a successful model created by West Virginia University, which currently engages more than 1,200 students across the state. That program boasts a 100 percent high school graduation rate – and 80 percent of participating students graduate with an undergraduate degree in four years.

“Our goal is to expand the program to more schools and counties, particularly Broward and Martin counties,” Zimmerman said.

The only barrier between the Outreach Program and its goal is funding. If the retention statistics of the West Virginia program can be replicated at FAU, we certainly will find it easier to receive more support from FAU, as well as local health care organizations.



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