Blue Ridge Partnership1

 View Only

Innovation Center is a ‘model program’ for Health Science Highway

  • 1.  Innovation Center is a ‘model program’ for Health Science Highway

    Posted 02-29-2024 09:31

    WINCHESTER STAR— Representatives from the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation (CMFC) gathered at Winchester Public Schools’ (WPS) Emil and Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center Monday to discuss the foundation’s Health Science Highway model.

    The goal of the highway model, they explained, is to provide a blueprint for student health care training programs on a local and regional level, as well as grant funding to help school divisions implement them.

    “So we are encouraging the workforce folks in Richmond to think about education training as a highway,” said Bill Hazel, senior deputy for giving at CMCF. “You know, let’s pave a few roads through life for people and understand that school doesn’t need to be front-loaded until you’re 22. Because if you’re 18 and you need to support yourself and your family, you take an exit, you go off, but how do you get back on the highway to get training when you need it? So that’s really the highway concept that we have.”

    As a trained orthopedic surgeon who spent eight years as Virginia’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Hazel said the point of doing this type of policy work is to ensure meaningful career paths for students and to help bolster the workforce. Not all medical professions require a four-year degree, and not having personnel like an ultrasound technician, Hazel said, can “shut the hospital down in a heartbeat.”

    A recent press release stated that of the $100 million CMCF has granted since its founding in 1987, $17 million has been allocated toward opening up pathways to health care careers for students.

    Over the past decade, WPS has received over $1 million in funding from CMCF to support health care education and training programs. In recent years, those dollars have helped provide necessary training equipment and learning materials at the Innovation Center’s Health Sciences Academy, which offers courses in nursing, physical therapy, EMT training and, most recently, firefighting.

    “[W]e’re seeing the results of our students going right to work after graduation from high school, but the best part is they don’t stop at that entry level job,” said WPS Superintendent Jason Van Heukelum. “They are then finding ways to navigate the health care field and get further credentialed to do another job that may be paid more, have more responsibility. And so it’s not just a one job situation. It’s going to be a job for their entire career. And they will have multiple avenues or pathways within the health care field, which is really exciting.”

    Hazel said that even for students who do plan to complete four years of college, having a skill is useful because it opens up opportunities to work in the field while completing a degree.

    “You could do daycare. You could work in a hospital. You could do other things besides that if you have the right certificate, so why not do it?” he said.

    Van Heukelum said he was excited that the Innovation Center is on the front end of this Health Science Highway model, and that he believes it can serve as an example for other programs in other areas. Hazel shared a similar sentiment.

    “This is a model program right here,” he said.

    “This Healthcare Highway model helps to really articulate pathways for students through their journey of education into the workforce,” said Shirley Bazdar, program manager of the Claude Moore Scholars Program. “And so what this does is it looks at the significant portion (of students) … who might not have a legacy of higher education and further training, that it gives them the road map that they need to pursue their goals.”

    Allie Buth