Unity Health empowering high schoolers to consider careers in health care

by Mark Amox ([email protected]) 547 views 

At Unity Health, our people, our patients and our communities are our top priorities, and every decision is made with them in mind. This focus continues to drive our decisions as we expand our services within the state, implement new ideas to support the communities we serve and confront the challenges the health care industry faces head-on.

As we serve our communities, we are mindful of the challenge that many areas are currently at risk of becoming healthcare deserts due to the nation’s physician shortage. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates the U.S. could see a shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034.

We must remain diligent in providing healthcare to these vulnerable regions. We must lean in to proactively identify unique approaches to bring more people into crucial and rewarding health care careers.

One significant opportunity is engaging with students early in their educational journey – well before they declare a career path. By giving them a first-hand glimpse into what it’s like to work in the healthcare industry, we can open their eyes to new possibilities and allow them to envision a future career in which they can excel. In addition to our physician residency training program, which is the second largest in the state, we are dedicated to providing educational opportunities starting in high school. Our hope is to inspire and encourage student’s interest in medicine before they move on to higher education or other career opportunities.

In August, we partnered with the Academies of Central Arkansas to announce the establishment of the Unity Health Academy of Health Sciences at Jacksonville High School. This academy is the result of an amazing partnership between Unity Health, Jacksonville High School and the Jacksonville North Pulaski School District.

Students will benefit from enhanced learning opportunities throughout their four years at Jacksonville High School. Students in freshman seminars will have opportunities for career exploration that include hearing guest speakers from local businesses and industry leaders. They will also participate in an annual career exposure event on our campus and at several other Central Arkansas businesses. We hope students will walk away with better knowledge and excitement about the health care field and the skills they need to flourish in any workplace.

Beginning this school year, Jacksonville High School students will participate in industry field trips, job shadowing, career mentoring, mock interviewing and potential internship and externship opportunities. If a student is nearing graduation from the Unity Health Academy of Health Sciences program, they will also have the opportunity to earn a concurrent credit, industry-recognized credentials and the ability to create a capstone project co-developed by a team at Unity Health and the faculty at Jacksonville High School.

The launch of this program coincides with the recent opening of Unity Health – Jacksonville, underscoring our continued commitment to the north Pulaski County community.

In addition, each summer, Unity Health’s CAMP (Careers and Medical Professions) program welcomes 16 high school juniors and seniors for a week of hands-on exploration of the health care field. Students tour medical departments within Unity Health’s White County Medical Center and specialty care clinics, and they engage with guest speakers from the healthcare community and enjoy exclusive shadowing experiences. The program concludes as students participate in coordinated community disaster drills, experiencing how the healthcare community reacts in times of crisis.

As we continue investing in our communities and future generations, we look forward to what lies ahead for Unity Health. By partnering with Jacksonville High School, we are starting to see how bright the future of health care in Arkansas can be, ensuring even better care for our patients.

Editor’s note: Mark Amox is president & CEO of Unity Health. The opinions expressed are those of the author.