IU School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences launches high school program to increase diversity

November 11, 2015

The Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at IUPUI is recruiting 40 Indianapolis Public School seniors to participate in a 20-week Saturday Academy program, a new academic initiative that is part of the federally funded IU Health Careers Opportunity Programdesigned to equip disadvantaged students with academic and social skills needed to graduate from a health-professions program.

Participants who successfully complete the academy will be eligible to receive a stipend of up to $1,240.

The Saturday Senior Academy will begin Jan. 23 on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. The students will meet for six hours that day and every Saturday through June 11.

The deadline for applying for the academy is Dec. 16. Students accepted into the academy will be notified by Jan. 6. To be eligible to apply, a student must be a senior with a grade point average of at least 2.5 and have completed two science courses, one math course and one English course with a C or better.

The Saturday Senior Academy is one of the initiatives created within the Health Careers Opportunity Program. The program was developed by the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and funded with a $1.9 million three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration to increase diversity in the health professions.

The goal of the academy and other Health Careers Opportunity Program initiatives is to prepare participants to enroll in, progress in and graduate from programs in the health professions, with a specific focus on the occupational therapy, physical therapy and physician assistant fields.

The Saturday Senior Academy will offer interactive and hands-on instruction in math, science, language and creative writing, as well as college-prep workshops. It will also feature small-group health care research projects, health-promotion activities, field trips and opportunities to shadow health care professionals.

"One of the things we want to do is nurture potential students -- socially, emotionally, and academically -- and support them as they move through high school and enter college," said Karen A. Duncan, project manager of the Health Careers Opportunity Program. 

One focus of the academy is to prepare students academically for college, particularly in math and science, Duncan said. "We want to show them the difference between the type of math and science they've had in high school and the type of math and science they will have in college, and then help them bridge that."

Beyond a focus on math and science, "the idea is to reach into high school and help students start thinking about and preparing for college if they are truly interested in moving into a health care profession," Duncan said.

The federal grant funding the program reflects a concern by policymakers and employers about the lack of diversity in the health care workforce and the low minority-student enrollment in health-professions programs.

"As the nation grapples with reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes and reforming the U.S. health care system, we must take proactive steps to ensure that we have a diverse, culturally competent health care workforce," said Health Careers Opportunity Program director Austin Agho, dean of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at IUPUI.