Humboldt healthcare pros partner up for high school career help

The power of partnership and service is on full display at area high schools, as Humboldt County healthcare professionals have come together to support career exploration opportunities for students taking a Biology & Community Health class at Arcata, Eureka, Fortuna and McKinleyville high schools.

Taught as a junior or senior year science class, Biology & Community Health is a laboratory science course focused on expanding students’ understanding of public and community health. The course curriculum was designed by the teachers in collaboration with the Humboldt County Office of Education’s (HCOE) Health Career Exploration Project (HCEP). 

Students do experiments, conduct research, complete simulations, and learn about cell physiology, genetics, evolution, ecology and vast amounts of medical terminology emphasizing how each affects public health. Students also become CPR, AED, and Basic First Aid certified and do extensive career exploration by speaking with professionals who work in different areas of the healthcare industry. 

Areas of exploration are determined each year by the student’s interest, which in the 2020-21 school year has included careers in oral health care like dentists, dental assistants, and dental hygienists, mental/behavioral health careers, careers as physicians, and careers as emergency first responders, including paramedics, firefighter/EMTs, and emergency room personnel.  

 Connecting with professionals working in these areas is possible thanks to a commitment to help from our community partners including the Humboldt-Del Norte Medical Society, the Humboldt County Oral Health Leadership Team, College of the Redwoods dental and nursing programs, Wendy Chapman from Northcoast Emergency Medical Services, and Dr. Peter Stoll, coordinator of Prevention and Intervention Services at HCOE. 

These partners coordinate connecting industry volunteers from throughout our community with our students. The volunteers then mentor and share their career expertise and inspiration by speaking in classes, doing mock interviews and coordinating virtual or (when possible) face-to-face job shadows and field trips.    

Subscribe to the Mad River Union and enjoy online access to the full print edition for just $40/year!

“The Humboldt-Del Norte County Medical Society knows the importance of giving students insight into the healthcare profession from various angles and what it takes to pursue a career in medicine”, says Dr. Caroline Connor, chair of the Humboldt-Del Norte Pre Medical Education Task Force. “It is our hope that some of these students will decide to become physicians and will want to come back ‘home’ to practice medicine here on the beautiful North Coast. We are thankful to all the physicians and other allied health professionals who have volunteered their time to share information with high school students, and the path they took to their careers.”

Science teacher Sara Dixon teaches the course at Fortuna High School. She was instrumental in designing the curriculum and has seen the value of the HCEP partnerships with industry. “Thanks to our industry volunteers, we’ve created amazing opportunities for my Biology and Community Health students to learn about careers in healthcare. 

The volunteers have given presentations, participated in panels both in person and virtually, answered student questions about the effects that COVID-19 has had on their jobs, and shared recommendations and tips for students who are considering these careers. 

My collaboration with industry partners through the Health Career Exploration Project also helps my students to understand our local healthcare crisis; not enough healthcare professionals practicing here to support our population. Most importantly, our partners give my students experiences and practical insight that they would not have if this program and partnerships were not in place.” 

In training for any career, learning knowledge and skills from professionals who have done a job before is an important part of real understanding. Practical insight and mentorship that is shared by seasoned professionals compliments academic learning and brings real life experiences to a classroom. 

The Humboldt County students who are learning science in the local Biology & Community Health classes, have the gift of mentorship on their side. The healthcare professionals supporting these students are helping our future physicians, first responders, dental, and behavioral health workers to prepare for their important and service-oriented careers. 

Thanks to the power of partnership, these students will be more career ready.  

Jim Ritter is community outreach coordinator for the Humboldt County Office of Education Career & College Resources Division. He supports the Health Career Exploration Project by coordinating with community partners and classroom teachers. If you’d like to help HCEP next year, contact Jim at [email protected].