College of Nursing, CPS look to sustain health professions pipeline program

The program has boosted the number of Cincinnati Public Schools graduates who pursue health careers

By: Katie Coburn

July marked the closing of UC College of Nursing's Pathways for Emerging Healthcare Leaders program. Also called HEALTH—Helping Emerging Adolescent Leaders Transform Healthcare—Pathways, the program was launched in August 2015 to increase the diversity of workers in health professions by preparing local high school students for pursuing careers in health care. The program, funded for five years by a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, has yielded successful results through strategies the college plans to sustain through a partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools.

HEALTH Pathways Project Team

Members of the HEALTH Pathways project team, clockwise from left: Greer Glazer, Karen Bankston, Tracy Pritchard, Karen Grimley and Kathleen Fulton

“The lack of diversity in the health care workforce is a known issue,” says Kathleen Fulton, MPH, who served as the project’s health professions coach coordinator, alongside project director Dean Greer Glazer, PhD. The team also included former Associate Dean Karen Bankston, PhD, as co-project director, project coordinator Karen Grimley, MAT, and former director of the Center for Educational Research, Scholarship and Innovation, Tracy Pritchard, PhD.

The college strategically partnered with Hughes STEM High School, which is adjacent to UC’s main campus, and Winton Woods High School in Forest Park, north of Cincinnati. Both schools’ student populations are predominantly Black and economically disadvantaged. The program sought to achieve two overarching goals:

  1. Foster student awareness and interest in health professions degrees through multi-modal and continuous exposure to health professions career paths and community health concerns; and
  2. Increase readiness for underrepresented and disadvantaged students for admission into two- and four-year health professions degree programs, with the ultimate goal of baccalaureate degree attainment through STEM enrichment and college prep.
We employed many evolving strategies to address different needs of the community. I'm so proud of each one of our program's participants. For five years, they have shown persistence as people, as students and as members of the community.

Dean Greer Glazer HEALTH Pathways project director

“This program has really demonstrated the value of the intersection between a high school student and a college-aged student developing a trusted relationship over time, especially in a fragile community where you have students that haven’t seen their adult family members going to college,” Grimley says.

At Hughes STEM High School, as part of HEALTH Pathways programming, health professions coaches helped students present at HOSA-Future Health Professionals competitive events. The students’ success at these events motivated Hughes to establish its own HOSA chapter in 2017 and embed programming in the school’s senior health and bioscience pathway curriculum. Since 2018, 56 Hughes students participated in Southwest Ohio regional competitions, 13 at State Leadership Conferences, and five at the 2018 International Leadership Conference.

Over the course of five years, a cohort of 16 Hughes students also participated in the Health Professions Academy, which involved weekly one-on-one study table sessions with health professions coaches; monthly meetings with parents, students and coaches; and a weeklong summer camp at UC every year throughout the students’ high school careers. According to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), the four-year graduation rate for the Hughes class of 2018 was 82.5%. Last May, all 16 Academy students graduated high school, and 13 entered a two- or four-year institution in fall 2019. This is noticeably higher than the percentage of 2016 Hughes graduates entering college within two years, which was 45.1%, according to ODE. Additionally, six of those students are enrolled at UC and four are pursuing health care-related majors, with one studying at the College of Nursing. All 13 students who started college in fall 2019 returned to their institutions for a second semester to complete their freshman year, which Grimley calls a “huge success.”

Other activities supported by HEALTH Pathways included career fairs, tours of historically black universities and health care intercession workshops. In total, the program reached a combined 3,866 students and their parents at both schools.

"We employed many evolving strategies to address different needs of the community. I'm so proud of the each one of our program's participants. For five years, they have shown persistence as people, as students and as members of the community," says Dean Glazer.

Cincinnati Public Schools requested a cost analysis of the project to determine the feasibility of continuing and expanding programming. Promising sustainability strategies include the AmeriCorps members who will continue leading HPAC clubs in Greater Cincinnati high schools through John Carroll’s Corps for Rural and Success in Health program. Service networks are also being created to support the six graduates of Hughes’ Health Professions Academy who are now studying at UC.

The HEALTH Pathways project is one of the college’s diversity and inclusion-related initiatives. The project stemmed from the college’s Leadership 2.0 program, which Glazer and Bankston launched in 2013 to increase the number of first-generation, racially diverse, ethnically and/or economically disadvantaged students in the college. The college is also a pioneer in implementing holistic admission strategies, has its own Committee for Equity and Inclusive Excellence and has been nationally recognized with a number of awards for its efforts to recruit, retain and graduate diverse nursing students.

“One of the things Dr. Karen Bankston always says is that health outcomes are improved when health care workers look like the patients they’re caring for,” Grimley says.

Featured image at top: Trained AmeriCorps health professions coaches work with students at Hughes STEM High School and Winton Woods High School to introduce them to health professions. Photo/submitted