Valencia High School students explore health careers

Ryan Liljedahl presents to fellow Valencia High School students his project career path to becoming a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at Valencia's first annual Freshman Health Science Expo on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

At Valencia High School, students have the unique opportunity to explore careers in the medical field through the William S. Hart Union High School District’s first Medical Science Academy (MSA).

The academy is described as a “school within a school” which allows students to talk courses and electives that prepare them for a future in the health care industry.

“We had sports medicine at the school for 15 years and now that is being phased out and into MSA,” said Joe Monteleone, the school’s MSA coordinator and director of sports medicine.  “This is the second year of the academy.”

The 150 students involved in the career-oriented program explore different careers, get hands-on experience in and out of the classroom, compete in annual events and gain soft skills to present themselves in a public, professional setting.

These “soft skills” include instruction in their freshman seminar class about professionalism in speech, dress and presentation.

“We spent the whole year preparing, researching and getting ready,” MSA teacher Chad Phillips said.  “It’s a good building block for future and careers.”

During the year, students also heard from endeavors medical professionals who answered questions about their career and described their daily routines.

“The guest speakers helped us with the decision making process and contributed to our own decision making,” said freshman Eva Dunn who wants to pursue a career as an athletic trainer.  “I wanted to be a trauma surgeon then I got introduced to athletic training.”

Dunn said athletic training encompassed everything she wanted to do in her future.

“I like to help people and I like to watch people push to accomplish their goals,” she said.

Other students chose to pursue careers as pediatricians, cardiothoracic surgeons, forensic archaeologists, trauma surgeons, ER doctors, orthopedic surgeons, nurse midwife, paramedics and orthodontists, among others.

“I’ve always been interested in surgery and knew I wanted to do something action-packed so I looked into trauma surgery,” freshman Kate Jetter said.

On Wednesday, ninth grade students involved in the program shared their skills and chosen careers paths with students, parents, teachers and medical professionals as part of the first MSA Freshman Health Science Exposition.

“They chose one (career) and researched it from education to salary to how their skills would fit into the roles,” Monteleone said.  “This is a culmination of all their hard work.”

At the expo, each student presented information about their future goals, 10-year plans, education, required skills and tasks, employment opportunities, work environments and salaries.

Judges, which included fellow students and medical professionals, visited each student’s table to speak to them about their chosen career and score them based on their research and professionalism.

“It’s nice to see a collective effort from the MSA staff to put this program together,” Phillips said.  “We focused on health professions that are available to them beyond just being a doctor.  They were able to open up their eyes and see what bet fit their skills and interests.”

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