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Education & Workforce Roundtable Discussion Headlines Congressional Visit at Pima Medical’s San Marcos Campus

Follow your passion for a career in healthcare and make a difference.

Congressman Fred Keller, paid a visit to Pima Medical Institute’s San Marcos campus on Tuesday, Jan. 25. Keller is currently serving his second term in Congress in Pennsylvania’s 12th district. He is also a member of the Committee on Education and Labor, which aims to foster the best opportunities for students to learn, workers to succeed and job creators to thrive.

While visiting the Pima Medical campus, Congressman Keller toured real-world lab classrooms, speaking with and seeing firsthand, the hard work put in by students, faculty and staff. Students in the veterinary technician lab demonstrated how to administer fluids to a rabbit while students simulated real world situations like patient codes in the respiratory therapy lab. Dental assisting students showed off the practical skills they are learning in the dental lab and the tour rounded out with a discussion of outcomes and job opportunities in the physical therapist assistant lab classroom.

Congressman Keller looks on as students practice real-world skills in Pima Medical’s Dental Assistant lab.

“How we all succeed is to prepare our students for careers that are needed, but also careers the students are passionate about,” said Congressman Keller.

Immediately following the tour, Congressman Keller joined Pima Medical and various community leaders for an education and workforce roundtable discussion. The discussion was moderated by Pima Medical Chief Operating Officer, John Hanson and focused on topics including staffing challenges, the importance of career technical training and filling the skills gap while preparing students before they graduate high school.

The healthcare industry is currently facing staffing challenges, and there is definitely a need for dedicated staff and the desire to elevate the level of healthcare provided to local communities in San Diego County. The education provided by Pima Medical and other trade and allied health colleges is even more important than ever.

“In California today, due to COVID related staffing shortages, healthcare is suffering a deficit in availability of talented staff, and consequently, challenged to meet the needs in the community,” said Jennifer Whitney, CEO, Palomar Health Rehabilitation Institute. “We are looking for dedicated staff who will be with our hospitals for the long haul, and who share our commitment to elevating the health and wellness of the community. We see the value in collaborating with our local educational institutions, who are not only training future healthcare employees, but also training professionals who will remain local, and will join us in supporting the mission to serve our local community.”

“It’s the hardest that I’ve ever had to go through from a staffing standpoint,” said Mary Hanshaw, assistant medical group administrator for Kaiser Permanente, San Diego. “Between career shifts because of the pandemic and the aging baby boomer population, we would not exist without career and trade schools like Pima Medical.”

Respiratory Therapy students simulating real world scenarios at Pima Medical Institute’s San Marcos Campus

“I feel very strongly those organizations like Pima Medical and other trade and community colleges play a significant role in social mobility as well,” said Aaron Byzak, Chief External Affairs Officer, Tri City Medical Center. “A nine-month program can open up a student’s eyes and create the opportunity to move up from where they started.”

“Without people being educated at schools like Pima Medical and the others we’ve been touring, it’s apparent that we wouldn’t be able to provide care to our communities,” added Congressman Keller. “It speaks to the continued need for quality education choices outside just the traditional four-year university path.”

The roundtable discussion then switched its focus to how communities can prepare students for careers before they even graduate high school. Pima Medical has two groundbreaking partnerships that help to prepare students whether they take a traditional or nontraditional path.

The newest is a veterinary assistant program launched at Twin Oaks High School, located in the San Marcos Unified School District. Its aim is to provide students with a clear pathway from high school to higher education and will create an opportunity for graduates to transfer credits into Pima Medical’s veterinary sciences programs.

“This is the exact program provided to our students at Pima Medical including the curriculum and instructor,” said Hanson. “Students completing the two-year program at Twin Oaks will be able to transfer their credits into the Veterinary Technician program at the San Marcos campus, essentially saving them a year of time and money.”

However, it is not just aimed at students whose path includes continued education. That means students who successfully complete this program can enter the workforce as a veterinary assistant when they graduate.

Pima Medical and the San Marcos Promise created the area’s first-of-its kind public/private partnership nearly four years ago. The partnership provides two, full-time Education Coordinators to the school district. The coordinators are employed by Pima Medical, and work year-round with high school students throughout the San Marcos Unified School District and beyond, adding their support to an already busy team of school counselors.

Veterinary Technician students at Pima Medical’s San Marcos campus demonstrate how to administer subcutaneous fluids to a rabbit in the real-world lab.

“We realize that talent is universal, but opportunity is not,” said Lisa Stout, Executive Director, The San Marcos Promise. “This program provides programs, resources and helps create opportunities for students to learn about their strengths and interests and explore the many career and educational options that exist in their futures. We couldn’t do it without the support of our community members and partners like Pima Medical.”

“These public/private partnerships have been revolutionary and have helped us to change the narrative,” said Tiffany Campbell, Deputy Superintendent, San Marcos Unified School District. “It further proves the understanding that the college and career discussion isn’t binary it really is future focused.”

“It’s a very exciting time for us because collectively people are realizing the old definition of what a successful student looks like is woefully inadequate,” said Andy Johnsen, Superintendent, San Marcos Unified School District. “We need proper funding and partnership support to be successful.”

“These are the connections in North County that can create real change, added Hanson. “It starts with all of us in this room.”

This roundtable discussion is just one way Pima Medical is working with its community partners to support students and create the most positive outcomes possible.

Congressman Keller says he plans to take what he has learned from his various visits and hopes to make an immediate impact in his home district, and across the country.

February 11, 2022
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