La Crosse Health Science Academy
The Health Science Academy is a two-year program preparing high school juniors and seniors for education and careers in the health science industry. The program provides thematic instruction, career exploration, job shadows, clinical experience, health science labs, mentoring by health professionals, research, certification and internship opportunities for students.
The Health Science Academy was kicked off in the fall of 2009 through a partnership between the La Crosse School District and Gundersen Lutheran through the La Crosse Medical Health Science Consortium (LMHSC), a collaborative effort between Gundersen Lutheran, Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Skemp Healthcare, The University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, Viterbo University, and Western Technical College.
The Health Science Academy was created for three primary reasons: improve diversity, create opportunities for students, and develop long-term workforce strategies.
• Recruit students from diverse backgrounds that have a great potential, may not have been otherwise exposed to opportunities in healthcare and may need some mentoring, and are underrepresented in the healthcare industry.
• Assist students in identifying if a healthcare profession is truly an area of interest for them prior to enrolling in the college program. Provide the appropriate level of classes, creating a natural transition for college and exposing students to a higher education atmosphere.
• Recruit students into healthcare professions – creating awareness for a variety of positions within the healthcare industry (not just nursing or physicians, but all facets of healthcare including administration) and creating a future pipeline of local talent.
In 2007, Jeff Thompson, MD, CEO of Gundersen Health System, attended an Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) conference and learned about a highly successful pre-college healthcare program based in New York City and Boston. A project team, sponsored by Gundersen Health System with representation from members of the LMHSC, along with members of the La Crosse School District administration, attended an IHI meeting in Boston in May of 2008 to learn more about the “Gateway Institute” and how we might develop and implement a similar program in the La Crosse area. The La Crosse School District had been exploring the development of a healthcare academy concept since 2005 and this meeting served as a catalyst to moving the 2005 concept to reality. In addition to the Gateway Program, several other academies and charter schools with an emphasis on healthcare were reviewed. Two visits were coordinated with the Appleton, WI School District to learn more about their healthcare academy. In addition, Randy Nelson, Assistant Superintendent for the La Crosse School District oversaw the implementation of a similar program in the Rochester, MN School District in 2006. With a solid partnership, leadership, and a clear vision a start date was targeted for fall of 2009. Structure and curriculum development for the La Crosse area program were developed based on a combination of best practice from all programs and tailored to our own specific needs and objectives.
The junior year incorporates anatomy and physiology along with a language arts course, tied specifically to healthcare applications. There is also a healthcare occupations class. In addition, students could be enrolled in the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program. Students will learn “soft skills” necessary in the healthcare industry, tied directly to Gundersen Lutheran competencies and service standards (i.e. teamwork, leadership, compassion, initiative, etc.). Courses also incorporate faculty and students from the academic institutions in La Crosse (UW-L, Viterbo University, and Western Technical College) through team teaching, guest faculty, class shadowing, and student and faculty mentors. We hope to have students who will participate in a required number of research hours over the summer between their junior and senior years. They are also asked to complete a capstone project that will incorporate learning from their two years in the program and present this project to a panel of healthcare professionals.
Students are exposed to outstanding learning opportunities within the “real world” of healthcare through job shadow experiences at both local healthcare institutions. A healthcare mentor is assigned to each student based on interest. Mentors meet with students on a regular basis, provide them with guidance on their education and career, and interact with them both professionally and privately. Students receive guidance on college admission, as well as college testing preparation. Community service and volunteering is a large component of the program.
The academy continues to maintain relationships with the students, post graduation. The ultimate goal of the program is to have the students obtain higher level education in a health professions field and stay in, or return to, the La Crosse area to live and work. Therefore, we continue to provide them with resources after they have graduated such as interview skills, resume development, networking, and scholarships.
Through a strong partnership, the La Crosse School District and Gundersen Health System have launched a successful initiative. Through other academy models we researched, those that were most successful had an engaged business partner. As a business partner, our involvement has been in the development of the program, contributing some initial start up and research costs (laptops, recruitment mailings, travel expenses, student badges), as well as resources for mentors, job shadows, and healthcare related education (CNA, CPR, HIPAA, etc.).
To learn more about our partners, please visit the following websites:
Gundersen Health System: http://www.gundersenhealth.org/
Global Partners: http://www.gundersenhealth.org/global-partners
Mayo Clinic Health System: http://mayoclinichealthsystem.org/
La Crosse Medical Health Consortium: http://www.lacrosseconsortium.org/content/c/home
Health Science Center: http://www.lacrosseconsortium.org/content/health_science_center
Scenic Rivers AHEC: https://www.ahec.wisc.edu/scenic-rivers