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Preparing the Healthcare Professionals of Tomorrow


In the spirit of the soon-to-be high school graduates venturing out to discover their own career paths, the focus of this week’s blog is a program run by faculty, staff, and medical students at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine (WMed). The program fosters an interest in the medical sciences among students in the Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS).

In 2014, Dr. Cheryl Dickson, Associate Dean of WMed’s Health Equity and Community Affairs, helped introduce Early Introduction to Health Careers (EIH), a pipeline program that serves more than 180 KPS students. Spanning two cohorts, EIH 1 supports fourth and fifth graders while EIH 2 is comprised of 10th grade students.

To gain a better understanding about the processes of EIH, KzooConnect met up with Dawn DeLuca, Coordinator for Health Careers and Pathways at WMed. In addition to supporting Dr. Dickson, DeLuca develops programming that exposes underrepresented students to healthcare programs.

“EIH 2 is our flagship program,” said DeLuca. “Students meet one Saturday each month and partake in hands-on learning. After completing that portion of the program, students are eligible for the summer program.”

Over the course of two weeks during the summer, participants meet with faculty, staff, and medical students at Kalamazoo College and WMed to continue their studies.

“The first week of the program is held at Kalamazoo College where students will learn lab skills with Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Regina Stevens-Truss,” said DeLuca. “Week two is held at WMed and includes activities such as CPR certification, learning anatomy with faculty, staff, and medical students, and meeting with Stryker employees to discover how medicine and engineering improves patient care.”

When asked about the benefits of the program, DeLuca said, “EIH helps recipients of The Kalamazoo Promise explore possible career paths, build self-confidence, and eventually find success in the health field.”

So far, DeLuca’s assessment has been correct as two students from the inaugural EIH 2 cohort have gone on to receive the Heyl Scholarship, a scholarship for studies in the sciences and nursing. One recipient is presently enrolled at the Bronson School of Nursing, while the other is studying biochemistry at Kalamazoo College.

With results like this, it should come as no surprise that the format for EIH is also being used in Calhoun County. Currently, more than 50 eighth grade students across three school districts are involved in the program.

Roughly five years into EIH’s lifespan, it is encouraging to see young people being engaged with a resource that opens their eyes to future possibilities. Programs like this strengthen the community and are examples of what makes Kalamazoo such a special place to live.

Interested in contributing to EIH? Proceeds from WMed’s 4th Annual Imagine GALA on Saturday, May 18, at the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus, directly benefit the cause.

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