by Amy Vaerewyck
Young people in the Denver area and throughout Colorado have a gold mine of future health profession opportunities at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The question is, do K-12 students know these opportunities exist right in their own backyard?
“What we’ve always seen, when we work with young students,” said Dominic Martinez, director of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Office of Diversity and Inclusion, “is that the only health professional opportunities they’re aware of are being a nurse or a doctor, but there are so many more choices open to them.”
Martinez and his team are working to make young people aware of CU Anschutz, a close-at-hand resource in a field that’s exploding with growth and professional opportunities. The office implements six health profession programs for kindergarten through 12th-grade students from diverse backgrounds. The offerings range from a middle school science camp to high school mini-clinics to a pre-planned multi-degree program.
“Our goal is to expose Colorado’s underrepresented populations to the health care field, serving as a catalyst to get them thinking about a career in health care,” Martinez said. “We want to create a seamless pipeline of opportunities and programs, so students aren’t left wondering ‘What’s next for me?’”
In April, 177 Denver-area middle and high school students visited research labs on the Anschutz Medical Campus as part of “Health Professions Opportunity Day” (hPod). Through workshops, speakers and hands-on activities, this day-long event exposed these young people to the myriad professional possibilities in health care and the health sciences.
“A lot of the students we work with have been told at some point in their life that they’ll never be able to reach their professional goals,” Martinez said. “We’ve been able to debunk that myth.”
One of the biggest challenges the Office of Diversity and Inclusion faces is a shortage of staff and resources.
“We’ve gotten by on a lot of volunteer services from health care providers at the Anschutz Medical Campus who have taken on mentorship roles,” Martinez said. “The challenge is finding more people to do that.”