Toyota grant offers health careers course

CREATE Garrett

Dr. Charles Garrett

While there may be a growing need for health care professional in a variety of medical fields, students are finding it challenging to choose and enter one. Often, they don’t know what preparation is required, whether the career will meet their expectations, or perhaps what the specific career even consists of.

Thanks to a grant from Toyota and the Wellspring Education Fund in partnership with Northeast Mississippi Community College, North Mississippi Medical Center and the CREATE Foundation, those questions should be answered for a group of Union, Pontotoc and Lee County students.

Announced Monday, the grant will fund something called “The Survey of Healthcare Careers Exploratory Course.” Starting with the fall semester, about 20 high school juniors and seniors from the three PUL Alliance counties will learn about a variety of careers in healthcare. That includes the education required, job market, average pay and what the job really entails.

The class will be mostly on-line, although one day every three weeks the students will go to the medical center and “shadow” different professionals in the medical fields.

Dr. Charles Garrett, senior consultant for CREATE, said since there are 14 high schools in the three PUL counties, the plan is to have at least one student from each and the remaining will be selected by lottery.

Enrollment deadline will be May 7 and the only cost to the student will be $24 for enrollment processing and an ID card.

Sean Suggs, Vice-President of Administration for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, made the formal announcement. “It is our duty to improve students and help them find the best educational paths,” he said and cited the recent web class that was held inside the Blue Springs plant as an example.

He called the project a great opportunity, giving students practical career experience and giving them college credit at the same time.“It provides a thorough review of the U. S. healthcare delivery system, managed care, healthcare financing, reimbursement, insurance coverage, Medicare, Medicaid, job safety, job skills ad the impact of new technology,” he said. “Health care is one of the most important sectors in North Mississippi economy,” Suggs said. “This will help them make a final decision.”

“This did not happen quickly,” Northeast President Dr. Johnny Allen told those present. “It has three purposes for us: to help us recruit, help them understand the reality of what health care is, and expose them to technology.”Allen noted that the class will be dual enrollment and dual credit, meaning students will receive three hours of college credit as well as the high school hours. “It will be hands-on, practical, theoretical and exploratory,” he said of the class, but expects to see the program grow quickly. “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Rosalyn Campbell, who has been doing career counseling coordination at North Mississippi Medical Center for 21 years, will handle the on-site part of the class.“I hope this is just the beginning,” she said and referred to the hospital’s success with other “Grow Our Own” concepts. “I hope students from the PUL Alliance will embrace this dream,” she said.

“This is a great opportunity for students,” Northeast division head Patti Cooper said. “They can take the class their junior or senior year in high school and gain knowledge they otherwise would not have. Often they don’t know what is really needed for some of these careers, and now they will have a knowledge base.”

Camille Shoffner, Northeast instructor, will be handling the on-line part of the class. “This has been needed a long time and will produce a more informed student,” she said. “Too many times students come to us not really understanind the profession they think they want to pursue. We want to change that…I urge students, parent and counselors to look into it.”

“I see nothing but positives coming out of this,” Union County Board of Supervisors President Danny Jordan said. He added that the program may be able to work with the Baptist health care system in Union County, once the bugs are worked out.

“This is a pilot program and they will have to see how it goes first,” he said.Union County’s advisory committee representative Mike Staten added, “We do hope to expand as time goes by…We are charged with serving K-12 and it is daunting to try to catch kids at a time when they are deciding what their careers might be.”

At the beginning of the announcement meeting, CREATE President Mike Clayborne briefly recounted the history that made the program possible.

“In 2007 when Toyota announced, they gave the generous endowment of $50 million to be spent on K-12 education in Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties over 10 years. This is the fifth year for the five million dollars into the endowment established at CREATE.”With creation of the endowment, they established an advisory committee with representatives from each county: Reggie Collums from Pontotoc, Mike Staten from Union and David Copenhaver from Lee. There is also a representative from the state superintendent of education’s office, Greg Pirkle represents CREATE and Sean Suggs, new Vice-President of Administration for Toyota, represents that company.

Students interested in the program should see their high school counselor.