YouMed Aligns Choffin Students with In-Demand Health Care Careers

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Registered nursing was the most in demand job in Ohio in October and in northeast Ohio 12% of job openings were in the health care fields, according to online postings through Ohio Means Jobs.

The Choffin Career and Technical Center is hoping that getting high school students interested in exploring health care fields will lead to them to find their niche and a rewarding career in the future.

The newly remodeled fourth-floor at Choffin, now known as the YouMed Academy, has the space ready for students to learn about advanced medical careers, fitness training, physical therapy, athletic training, dentistry and medical office operations. The students can gain skills, certifications and find out about future education or degrees they may want to pursue after high school, either at Choffin’s adult education programs or elsewhere.

Michael Saville, director of the Choffin Career and Technical Center, said the renovation of the formerly unused part of their building took about a year and a half, creating large spacious labs between 2,500 and 3,000 square feet, as well as a gathering space in the middle.

With that space, Saville said Choffin is offering a robust curriculum to train students who will be tomorrow’s workforce in the health care industry.

“We started off with a process goal to provide in-demand, rigorous and accessible medical programing to our Youngstown City scholars, and that process goal has now turned into an achievement goal… to produce highly qualified and certified candidates for a vast array of medical positions in the Mahoning Valley and beyond,” says Saville.

A program for high school juniors and seniors, the first group of 27 juniors started last year, when there were only two programs – allied health and biotech. This year the program expanded with 68 students in five programs – medical and dental patient care, fitness and physical therapy, as well as medical office or business management. At maximum capacity, the program could serve 200 students annually.

“We took a bigger picture look of what we’re trying to accomplish and look what was in demand, what was in need,” said Saville. “We found out that between the pandemic hitting the industry pretty hard and the areas that we just weren’t covering, we wanted to provide an opportunity for every one of our scholars to get every niche and area in demand in Youngstown, the region and even nationwide.”

Aligning with the three medical programs in adult education – practical nursing, surgical technology and dental assisting – students completing some of these high school programs can continue to the adult program and earn national certification.

Saville hopes the medical community and other schools will partner with the YouMed Academy as it prepares students for future careers. He would like to see the industry help to provide these students with mentors who would influence the curriculum.

“We think we have it covered across the board with the offerings. Now we’re trying to get the support from the community, support from the industry to provide the guidance and representatives,” Saville says.

While some students come with no experience or interest because they are not aware of what is available, other students are very committed that they want to be a nurse or a doctor. The program allows them to come in at any level as a junior, when they enter the program as medical generalists. They learn anatomy, physiology and explore the programs. Then they can decide where they might want to specialize their senior year.

“This is kind of the crown jewel at the top of our building up here on the fourth floor. It allows everybody to work together. It allows every one to see multiple facets of an industry, which is something unique to our building,” Saville said.

Part of the renovation was paid for with grants, including $200,000 from an Equity for Each grant, and an Innovation Workforce grant, which will boost the EMT academy that will be coming in the spring.

The high school students can collaborate and be mentored by the adult education students a floor down and both groups can take advantage of the equipment in the building.

Some of that equipment includes an Anatomage table, which Dr. Marci Higgins said actually will allow students to see and explore the parts of a human body without the school actually needing a cadaver.

The instructor can set up quizzes with identification questions. Students can even focus on regional anatomy, such as the mouth area through the dental program.

“It’s a fantastic tool,” Higgins said. “Everyone is using it, adult ed and our (high school) programs. We can stand it up. It’s on a hinge. It can connect and project.”

Although not by computer generated imagery, the Anatomage shows an actual human brain, taken apart layer by layer. There are four cadavers within the system right now.

Higgins says the equipment allows some advantages over an actual cadaver lab, which requires security, cold storage, generator back up and recurring cost. For less than $100,000, the school can use this year after year.

“We’re really excited about this,” Higgins says, adding very few schools in the state have this technology at this time.

In the fitness training, health and wellness classroom, Tanya Bush says students were collecting data from their classmates, such as pulse, blood pressure and BMI.

Earlier in the year, students started by talking about how much longer people are living because of medical technology, but why they are still struggling with medical ailments and so unhealthy.

“The American Medical Association is now recognizing a lot more [issues] we are dealing with in health care comes from stuff that could be prevented,” says Bush. “We’re a pretty diseased country.”

Students have explored the effects of stress, cortisol and body composition on health, as well as medical conditions such as diabetes, looking at ways they can help prevent medical conditions before they occur.

“Theoretically, they will be able to work with clients, to develop a very specific program,” Bush says. “They will have a whole range of assessments they will be know how to do… be able to work with clients to help them live better or avoid the health problems coming their way.”

Bush says some of the students in her program are interested in mental health, social work, personal training, coaching or nutrition. They start off with a broad knowledge base and then go in the directions where students are interested.

“The kids are engaged,” says Dr. Martin Freeman, a McKinney-Vento liaison with the Youngstown City Schools, who attended the ribbon cutting and open house. “That’s what’s extra phenomenal. You can see the kids actually working, attentive, engaged, participating. They’re taking advantage of the resources that have been made available to them.”

Deputy Superintendent Jeremy Bachelor pointed out the YouMed Academy program at Choffin is about preparing more students for their futures.

“Career, technical education is really about the future, preparing them for their future, not our past, and giving them skills that will be translatable into the workforce. Hopefully they will be the next generation who will do great things in our valley,” Bachelor says.

Pictured at top: Dr. Marci Higgins, physical therapy and athletic training instructor at Choffin, shows the capabilities of the Anatomage learning table to Vicki Thompson of Thomas P. Miller & Associates, who attended the ribbon cutting on behalf of efforts by the Mahoning Valley Manufacturing Coalition to create more pre-apprenticeships for healthcare-related fields.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.