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Students get hands-on introduction to health careers at UMMS conference

High school and college students from across the state participated in the 2015 MassAHEC HOSA State Leadership Conference April 11 at UMass Medical School to learn about careers in health care.

The sixth annual conference drew 267 students who participated in competitions, speed networking with health care professionals, presentations and ten hands-on clinical stations. There also was a teleconferencing question-and-answer session with Hugo Quezada, the national president of HOSA. AHEC (Area Health Education Center) and HOSA-Future Health Professionals (formerly Health Occupations Students of America) are both national organizations that promote career opportunities in health care.

The conference was hosted by the Massachusetts Area Health Education Center Network (MassAHEC), part of the Center for Health Policy and Research, a unit of UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division. MassAHEC HOSA is partially supported by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Jaime F. Vallejos, MD, MPH, Health Careers Pipeline program manager and the statewide advisor of MassAHEC HOSA, said a significant shortage of health professionals is projected over the next 20 years. Students who pursue careers in the health field will play a role in the continued advancement of health reform.

“These students plan to pursue further education to become health care professionals,” Dr. Vallejos said. “These kids are focused and motivated to get on track with a career. We track them into college and it is exciting to see their success.”

Family physician Pablo Hernandez Itriago, MD, assistant professor of family medicine & community health at UMass Medical School and clinical associate in family medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, delivered the keynote address.

The speed networking health care professionals included physicians, nurses, physical and respiratory therapists, pharmacists and behavioral health professionals such as social workers. The students also competed in activities to test their knowledge and skills, including medical photography, interviewing, sports medicine and dental science.