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LCIA hears Health Career Academy success, but program ending

By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

Upon hearing about the successes of the Lowndes County Health Career Academy, Lowndes County Improvement Association (LCIA) members want the program to continue despite the fact funding has run out.

Martha Davis Vignes, executive director of Southeast Alabama AHEC (Area Heath Education Centers), reported on the success of the recent Lowndes County Health Career Academy to the (LCIA) on Thursday, July 19.

Vignes told the LCIA that while it was actually the inspiration for the academy, the DeltaCorps grant that funded the program has run out and additional funding is not available.

The LCIA is a group dedicated to bringing a proposed Lowndes County General Hospital and Ambulatory Care Center to the county as it relates to a community development initiative.

Vignes said the idea of the Health Career Academy came about at an LCIA meeting in December of 2016.

She said one of the things AHEC does is recruit students from high school into health careers. And she said students who grow up in places like Birmingham or Huntsville are not likely to come to rural counties such as Lowndes to practice medicine. “We know that in these smaller counties, we have to grow our own healthcare providers,” Vignes said.

She said she later learned of funding through the Delta Regional Authority in a program called DeltaCorps.

Vignes said she met with leadership in Lowndes County including the Alabama Extension Office, then Katanga Mants, Lowndes County District Judge Adrian D. Johnson and then Lowndes County School Superintendent Dr. Daniel Boyd. And from that meeting, she said, it was decided to invite 10th, 11th and 12 graders from all three high schools in the county to enter a healthcare enrichment program.

She said Hayneville Baptist Church allowed the program to make use of its fellowship hall, and one Saturday per month for eight months, programs were provided for students.

She said the classed began with representatives from the Auburn School of Pharmacy, who gave the students hands on activities and discussed the education required and salaries for pharmacist.

In February, she said Trenholm State Technical College representatives came to discuss nursing with the students.

In March, she said, the students did a college tour at Alabama State University and learned about careers in social work.

Vignes said in April the Department of Public Health sent representatives who talked to the students about careers in public health.

Next, she said Haynes Life Flight landed a helicopter at Hayneville Baptist Church and an emergency medical flight team talked to the students.

In May, Vignes said the students were taken through ACT (American College Testing) prep.

She said, “Everybody knows that making good grades in school is one thing, but you’ve got to be able to do well on standardized tests or you don’t get into medical school, you don’t get into nursing school.”

Next she said Baptist Health taught the students about nutrition and dietitians.

She said in June the Family Medicine Residency sent two residents who talked to the students about what it takes to get into medical school.

Vignes said the main point the residents made was that the students must have “a plan.”

She said, You can’t just think, okay one day I want to be a doctor. You’ve got to actually strategically plan for it and write it down.”

She also said the Family Sunshine Center talk to students.

Vignes told the LCIA that last class will involve Physical Therapy with Rehab Associates from Montgomery who will provide hands on activities and tell the students what it takes to get an education in physical therapy.

Vignes said Judge Johnson also asked the academy to provide the students with scholarship information. “So,” she said with regard to the healthcare disciplines the students were exposed to, “We actually went through all of the schools and universities in the state and actually outlined what kind of scholarships were available.”

Vignes said Lowndes County is considered “a health professional shortage area.“ And, she said that means the county qualifies for healthcare providers to get their loans handled by the federal government in return for service in the county.

Vignes said there were 12 participants in the Health Career Academy from Lowndes Academy, the Calhoun School and Central High. She said they were selected from a group of f 41 students who applied, and all are very interested in healthcare careers.

But Vignes told the LCIA that the DeltaCorps Program will not be funded again and has been done away with by the Delta Regional Authority. However, she said the students who participated in the program will be followed to see if they pursue healthcare careers.

Upon hearing about the loss of funding, members of the LCIA expressed interest in helping to find ways to keep the program going.  The Rev./Bro. Martin McCall said, “We see a great need that is here that is not being addressed.” And LCIA President Dr. O.L. Hubert asked for detailed information on what is needed to continue such a program.

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