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Supporting Health Professions Education in Local Schools

Sept. 16, 2020

Growing up as a young girl in South Austin, I did not have easy access to anyone in health care. It was not until my mother enrolled me in the Brackenridge Hospital volunteer program at age 14 that I was actually able to see what a health professions career could be like. This exposure is what let me to decide I would do everything in my power to become a doctor.

Now as a physician and assistant professor, I have the privilege of working alongside Mini Kahlon, Elizabeth Colvin, Cathy Stacy, David Auzenne, Kim Hughes and Kathryn Kalinowski to create health professions education initiatives and support for teachers and career and technical education administrators in Central Texas.

Thanks to the support of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Dell Medical School has created a Health Professions Education Program that leverages Dell Med’s expertise and meets identified community needs through programming that is not available from other local stakeholders. These programs are designed to complement the very successful Health Sciences Summer Camps run by Lily Martinez and extend Dell Med’s reach into more area classrooms.

Health professions teachers examine medical literature during a professional development workshop.

Health professions teachers examine medical literature during a Dell Med professional development workshop.

So far, we have hosted three professional development workshops for health science high school administrators and teachers from four local school districts where the percentage of students underrepresented in medicine and health professions is 70% or higher. This provides not only an avenue for teachers to have increased access and exposure to cutting-edge developments in medicine and Dell Med faculty and affiliates, but also opportunities for Dell Med to connect with area teachers and their classrooms.

Although COVID-19 initially posed a challenge for us, our dedicated team quickly adapted and transitioned to all-virtual workshops. Without the barriers of driving and distance, we expanded to include rural districts and those participating in the Central Texas Healthcare Partnership K-12 workgroup. Overall, these workshops served 48 CTE teachers, 15 STEM teachers and 20 administrators, representing 19 school districts. Our goal is for the teachers and administrators to incorporate what they learn into lesson plans that will reach all of their students.

As we continue these professional development workshops, we are unveiling the next phase of community engagement via Dell Med in Your Classroom. Local teachers can request virtual classroom visits from Dell Med faculty, trainees, affiliated health professionals and undergraduate students to learn more about individual experiences and career pathways. Students can also virtually tour Dell Med to see what a medical school looks like firsthand. We are proud to be able to offer these experiences in an equitable fashion to people who may not have previously had the opportunity to engage with health professionals.

I am thrilled to have come full circle and now provide to other people the opportunities I wish had been available for me as a young student. With all of the challenges COVID-19 has presented the world, we are grateful we can continue to bring these programs and services to school districts in Central Texas. None of this would be possible without the support of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and the numerous Dell Med faculty, affiliates, students and staff members who have been generous with their time and knowledge.

If you are interested in participating in educating our local CTE and STEM teachers and/or future health care leaders, please email Kathryn Kalinowski.