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Students in Stethoscopes in Alexandria
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Students in Stethoscopes in Alexandria

ACPS partners with GW to build school to health care professional pipeline.

A practice patient for the T.C. Williams’ Health & Medical Sciences Academy.

A practice patient for the T.C. Williams’ Health & Medical Sciences Academy. Photo contributed

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Catalina Muñoz, a T.C. Williams’ Health & Medical Sciences Academy student, takes notes during a lecture.

The last year of high school can be a daunting experience, struggling to figure out what kind of career to pursue and where to go to college. But in four years, a group of 150 T.C. Williams High School students will have a slightly easier time of it. After their graduation, the first class of the Academy of Health Sciences will be able to choose whether to immediately jump into a medical career or sign up for guaranteed admissions at George Washington University.

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) and George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Services have partnered to establish a pathway for students interested in a career in medicine and health care. The partnership will create five new career and technical education pathways within a new GW-ACPS Academy of Health Services at TC. It will start with the launch of a biomedical informatics pathway in fall 2018, followed by four additional pathways — sports medicine, pharmacy, emergency medical services and medical laboratory sciences that will launch over the next four years.

Sherri Chapman, who organized the partnership, said the program is the only one of its kind in the state. At no extra cost, TC students can apply to join the dual-enrollment program with GW and earn over 20 college credits in health and medical science courses. The partnership is designed to offer three pathways post graduation: attain employment after graduation into a medical career, enroll into Northern Virginia Community College, or will have guaranteed admission into GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences with several scholarship opportunities.

“It’s giving those students that may not be able to afford college an opportunity,” said Chapman. “They would save money by already having credits. They would have automatic admission. There would be scholarship opportunities.”

The program will take a maximum of 150 students in its freshman class, with another 150 added to the freshman class each year after.

Dr. Reamer Bushardt, senior associate dean for health sciences at GW School of Medicine and Health Services, said the academy was formed after an earlier partnership between ACPS and GW where students designed and developed apps.

“We were tremendously impressed with students, really enjoyed working with the teachers and students,” said Bushardt. “We started talking about the great demand on health careers in Northern Virginia and D.C. area. It was that context where we talked about how to build on partnership and synergy and our impact on how to meet regional needs.”

In the D.C. metro region, over the next 10 years there is anticipated to be an annual shortage of approximately 1,236 healthcare professionals and roughly 776 healthcare support occupations, according to Labor Insight Jobs and Burning Glass Technologies. Bushardt said programs like the TC partnership are also a good way of building diversity in the healthcare field, where Bushardt says that currently isn’t very represented. Bushardt said that often, as students start Middle School or High School, they start to form ideas of what they can and can’t be.

“People think about being a nurse or physician, but there’s a lot of health careers,” said Bushardt. “It’s an opportunity to reach deeper into the pipeline. It’s about supporting counselors and teachers, helping connect students with careers they may not know about but may line up with their talents and interests. And we hope some of those students choose GW and continue education there.”