Mayo Clinic Program Inspires High School Students to Look at Jobs in Health Care

Not many people can say that their lives were changed in one week, but Arlena Schmidt can. She was one of 40 Minnesota junior and senior high school students inspired by health professions while attending the Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences’ Career Immersion Program.

The weeklong free residential summer program introduces students to more than a dozen health science careers, helps them map an academic path to those careers, and instills in them the confidence to excel. “The program solidified that I wanted a career in health care,” Arlena says. She was excited to learn about options, such as becoming a phlebotomist, so that she could work in health care while attending college.

“Most high school students are familiar with the career pathways to become a physician or a nurse,” says Stacey A. Rizza, M.D., associate dean of the school. “What they likely aren’t familiar with are all the other health science careers that contribute to a patient’s diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care.”

At Mayo Clinic, the practice of medicine is built around a cohesive team of professionals all focused on the needs of the patient. Overall, allied health providers make up an estimated 60% of America’s health care workforce. They play a vital role in the continuity of care.

“Our goal is to introduce high school students to these careers, show them the academic path to achieve these careers, and — we hope — eventually employ them as our workforce of the future after they’ve completed their schooling,” Dr. Rizza says.

Mapping the Future

Participants are introduced to professional conduct in the workplace, a vast network of Mayo Clinic faculty and current Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences students. Under the guidance of staff from the Office of Strategic Student Recruitment and Outreach, participants learn how to chart their college and career paths. Students also have the opportunity to connect with local college recruiters and mentors for specific allied health training programs.

The Career Immersion Program is competitive, and students are selected based on academic achievements, an essay, letters of recommendation and an interview. The program is intended for students who have an interest in health care, especially those from diverse or underserved populations. Similar programs are available at the Arizona and Florida campuses.

During the program Arlena was privy to a glimpse of the work of a phlebotomist.

“The phlebotomy program staff filled my head with knowledge and made the program seem very interesting,” Arlena says.

Arlena earned her phlebotomy certification immediately after high school and was hired at Mayo Clinic. She plans to further her education by attending the Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences Surgical First Assistant one-year program after she graduates from the University of Minnesota Rochester in 2021.

That success began with the Career Immersion Program.

Says Arlena: “Not only did I begin a health care career, but I also received an income to help support me while in college and the opportunity to make many professional relationships within Mayo Clinic.”

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