Assignment: Education - Health Science Academy

La Crosse High Schools Expose Students to Careers in Medical Field

LA CROSSE, WI - Hands on experiments are good lessons.

"I think we do a good job of getting our students college ready," said Annette O'Hern, Health Science Academy director. "But now what are we doing to get our students career ready?"

It's kind of a gross thought, but if you're a junior at either La Crosse public high school you may choose to start thinking like this if you're interested in a career in medicine. 

"When I was younger, I always wanted to do something in the health field," said Samantha Ellis, Health Care Academy senior. "But I never knew exactly what I wanted to do."

The La Crosse School District is hoping to help students find a career path in medicine through a two-year program for juniors and seniors called the Health Science Academy.

"I think it's very important for us to expose our students to career opportunities, especially for careers they may not have ever thought of," said O'Hern.

So, each year 28 juniors are accepted into the academy. They attend morning classes like anatomy and physiology among area college students at the Health Science Consortium near UW-La Crosse's campus.


"I come here at like 7:30 and I go back to school and I have a couple of study halls," said Ellis. "So, I can do my homework from here. And then I go back to school and I have three more classes."

Samantha is a Central High School senior and in her second year of the program.

As part of the academy, she's taken part in a few job shadows at Gundersen Medical Center and Mayo Clinic Health System.

"I wanted to be a medical examiner and then I was scheduled in a surgery," said Ellis. "And It happened to be orthopedic surgery, and I really like that whole aspect of like hips and knees and stuff."

"I think that's one of the responsibilities we have for our high school students," said O'Hern. "So, that when they go onto college, in addition to taking their generals their freshman year, they might have a focus saying, 'you know that I had this experience in high school and I really think I would enjoy doing this or at least know there are additional things out there for me.'"

But finding a possible career path is only just the beginning.

"It's a little bit more than exploratory," said O'Hern.

Students also earn a Certified Nursing Assistant certificate. It is a requirement to get into some medical programs.

"A lot of my friends think it's cool," said Ellis. "They will look at my CNA book and they're like, 'you're actually doing that?' And I'm like, 'yeah! I will be.'"

And the opportunity to be a part of the academy is available for at risk students to national honor society students.

"The students that are selected are the students that are able to tell us that this could make a difference in their lives," said O'Hern.

It already has for Samantha, as her dreams of working in health care are now focused on orthopedics.

"It's totally different than working with dead people... but...," said Ellis.

But her hands on experience has introduced her to a new career in health care she hadn't even thought of yet.

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