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Grooming Our Youth For Health Care Careers

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By Hardy L. Brown

I recently read a Sun Newspaper editorial about this effort by several local educational institutions and health care provider organizations getting together to encourage or steer students into the health care field. Arrowhead Regional Medical Center and UC Riverside School of Medicine; Cal State San Bernardino and Western University of Health Sciences and Cal Poly of Pomona and Western University are also partnering to get students to become interested in the many careers in the huge health care industry. This is one industry that will need many skilled providers as our Inland Empire population grows older and in need of better health care.

As a retiree from Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program’s, Personnel Department, a health care recruiter, and twelve-year trustee on the San Bernardino Unified School Board I know firsthand that these kinds of partnerships are necessary. They need to begin at the elementary level before limits are set in the students mind. I remember when my wife Cheryl, and the children were returning home from a doctor’s visit in the pediatric clinic at Fontana. My daughter Paulette was telling us she wanted to become a doctor. Hardy, II responded very quickly to that notion by saying girls cannot be doctors. When asked why, he had not seen any female doctors care for them and girls in his estimation could only be nurses. Hardy was four and Paulette was eight at the time and Kaiser did not have any female doctors in the pediatric department, which has since changed due to Federal Equal Opportunity Laws and Affirmation Programs which Kaiser enacted aggressively during the seventies and eighties. Paulette did not pursue a career in medicine but earned her doctorate in English at UC Riverside.

During my tenure as a school board member, I brought the idea to the board of reopening Muscott Elementary school as a health care magnet and changing the name of the school to Dr. Howard Inghram, an African American native of San Bernardino who practiced medicine for fifty years in the Inland Empire. I had Community Hospital of San Bernardino which was located across the street to adopt the school and the United Nurses Association Union of Southern California to also adopt the school.

The school boards focus was to begin at an early age to get children interested and knowledgeable about personal health issues and a career in this growing industry. Most people only think of doctors and nurses when they think of health care but there are many good paying positions in the industry and we have shortages in many. This leads to health care institutions importing workers from other countries to care for us while our own neighbors go unemployed. This never made sense to me so these partnerships are a step in the right direction. These imported workers provide good care but sometimes we have culture clashes between patient and provider not to mention labor issues where a union exists for employees. These two issues can be avoided by training our own while alleviating the high unemployment rate of our citizens.

I recall the first open house and seeing students dressed and acting as medical professionals and parents as patients getting care from students. Each classroom was recreated as a department of the hospital such as lab, pharmacy, x-ray, medical records, doctors’ office and the cafeteria. Of course as people changed in administration and boards, that focus changed but is still needed as demonstrated by these new partnerships. I would encourage every school district to enact such a focus on personal health and health careers in their district. Children learn by seeing and doing that which is relevant and believable to them. Thanks Sun for taking the time to highlight this issue of “grooming students in the health care careers” as an editorial.

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