High School Students Explore Careers in Health Care Through Rutgers Program
Students statewide can earn college credit while learning about growing health care fields and obtaining clinical experience
‘The curriculum is intensive and prepares them for future studies or to enter directly into a career after high school.’– Suzanne D’Anna, program director
For as long as he can remember, Faizan Munshi dreamed of a career in health care. “I wanted to devote my life to improving people’s wellbeing,” he says. “But since no one in my family worked in medicine, I had no idea what that exactly entailed.”
Then in the eighth grade, Munshi attended a presentation by the Rutgers School of Health Professions (SHP) about its Careers in Health Sciences Program and saw his opportunity. The program, which was being offered at the Morris County School of Technology near where he lived, would allow him to explore specialties in the health field and earn college credit there during his high school years.
“No other school in my area offered courses in health care. I was intrigued because it would allow me to get a real idea of what pursuing a career in medicine would be like before I made a commitment to studies in college,” says the Mount Olive resident.
Over the next four years, Munshi studied subjects such as medical terminology, nutrition, anatomy and physiology. He also worked in a clinical setting, shadowing a physician who eventually became his mentor. “The program was an eye-opening experience that allowed me the opportunity to explore a variety of specialties,” he says.
After Munshi graduated from Morris County School of Technology 2012, his interest in health care solidified. He enrolled at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, double-majoring in cell biology and neuroscience, and history and bringing with him 40 college credits, 18 of which applied to his majors.
Today, Munshi is a first-year student at Rutgers’ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Launched in 1993 with a grant from the New Jersey Department of Education, the Careers in Health Sciences Program is a partnership between Rutgers and approximately 65 high schools statewide that enables students to earn up to 34 college credits as they explore an abundance of careers in health fields.
According to the United States Department of Labor, employment in health care is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024 due to an aging population and greater access to health insurance. Health care is expected to add more jobs than any other group of occupations.
“Our mission is to introduce high school students to the growing number of health occupations and to give them practical health care practitioner skills; the college credit they receive is a bonus,” says Suzanne D’Anna, the program’s director. “When students consider careers in health care, they typically think about physicians, nurses or dentists, but there are many more opportunities that they should be investigating, like registered dietitians, medical laboratory technologists, physical therapists and physician assistants. The curriculum is intensive and prepares them for future studies or to enter directly into a career after high school.”
Classes, taught by high school instructors with at least a master’s degree and the expertise to be adjunct instructors at Rutgers, are offered during the normal school day and use coursework provided by SHP. Many instructors are former health care providers, including nurses, D’Anna notes.
The program is geared to high school-level juniors and seniors whose coursework includes an introduction to health occupations and emerging clinical care and who perform 10 hours of clinical shadowing each year. Rutgers will work with schools that prefer a four-year academy structure. Each school is required to offer at least two college-level courses. To earn college credit, students must maintain a C grade point average and pass an exam administered by Rutgers.
Last year, the program enrolled 3,426 students and graduated 1,636, with 1,045 earning college credit that would be accepted at many schools nationwide. Since its inception, the program has graduated 14,858 students. Like Munshi, many students continue on to attend Rutgers.
“Now that I’m in medical school, I can really appreciate the experience I received in this program and how it gave me a jumpstart over my peers,” he says. “I was fortunate to be able to fully understand my career path before I even sent in my undergraduate application.”
For more information, contact the Rutgers School of Health Professions at 973-972-4276.