CAREER SUCCESS IN SCIENCE AND HEALTH
A decade ago, as it continues to do so today, the health care job market in Worcester offered viable and exciting career opportunities. Yet, few Worcester public school students were pursuing post-secondary science education at UMass Medical School or other local colleges and universities, and those who did find employment in the health care field did so in lowpaying, entry-level positions that offered little opportunity for career growth.
A partnership was forged between the Medical School and the Worcester Public Schools to reshape this reality. The resulting Worcester Pipeline Collaborative (WPC) is a national model of teamwork among many constituents to prepare, educate and train a health care workforce that reflects the community’s diversity. The WPC is grounded in the belief that students from under-represented groups must gain the scientific and mathematic literacy necessary to thrive as members of the local work force, particularly in the health, science and biotechnology industries on the rise in the region.
Initiated with five-year Robert Wood Johnson Foundation matching funds for students enrolled in the North Quadrant of the Worcester Public Schools, the WPC has had a tremendous impact on students enrolled in its academic pathway programs, including the Health Science Academy at North High School and Worcester East Middle School and the Health Assistant Program at Worcester Vocational High School.
The Worcester Pipeline Collaborative (WPC) helps prepare minority and economically disadvantaged students for success in the health care and science professions, where they are traditionally underrepresented.
Current WPC activities involve more than 6,000 K-12 students in eight Worcester elementary schools, a middle school and two high schools.
In a recent academic year, all high school seniors who participated in the WPC’s After School Science program were accepted into two-year and four-year higher education institutions.
Based on a survey of participants of the High School Health Careers Program, 99 percent said they would recommend the program to others and all indicated that it increased their awareness of health careers and helped solidify their choice of a career in research or medicine.
Teaching students to set high academic standards and expectations for themselves is at the heart of the WPC’s work. “It’s so gratifying to introduce these students to real-world experiences in health care and science-related professions,” said UMass Medical School’s Robert Layne, MEd, the WPC’s director (pictured left with Deborah Harmon Hines, PhD, WPC co-principal investigator). “Many of our economically or educationally disadvantaged participants appreciate the benefits of academic achievement more fully when provided the opportunity to job-shadow and intern, including the possibility of working after school, weekends or during the summer at host departments.” Through the support of the Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care partners in the WPC, who provide host sites that continually contribute to the success of the program’s activities, many participants are graduating from high school and attending college with realistic health-related career goals.
WPC has expanded activities outside of the greater Worcester community, and many of its efforts have come to the attention of others. School administrators often seek advice for creating partnerships with real depth and meaning for their districts. Initiatives such as the Graduate School of Nursing’s Worcester Nursing Pipeline Consortium and the Carnegie Foundation-funded Small Learning Communities initiative, adopted by the Worcester Public Schools, were both modeled after the original “Pipeline” concept. Recently, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) invited the WPC to submit an article about health professions partnership initiatives; “Worcester Pipeline Collaborative: The First Decade,” was published in Academic Medicine, the AAMC’s flagship journal distributed to 126 accredited medical schools throughout the nation.
Worcester Pipeline Collaborative
This information originally appeared in Partners In Service, which was published by UMMS in 2008. PDF available.