$70K grant helps ICHS inspire a new generation of health care leaders

Program prepares youth of color for future careers while meeting workforce demand for culturally competent health care

A $70,000 grant from the Sheng-Yen Lu Foundation is helping International Community Health Services (ICHS) prepare youth from diverse backgrounds for a future in health care. This fall, ICHS launched the Building Leadership: Building Healthy Communities program at Seattle World School. The two-year partnership between Seattle World School and ICHS will give students hands-on experience and training in medicine, as it helps ICHS address a growing demand for culturally competent care.

“ICHS is committed to training the next generation of health care providers,” said Teresita Batayola, ICHS CEO. “What better way to do this than by partnering with our school-based health center. By supporting youth of color, we expand who has access to education and jobs in this sustainable and desirable field, as well as create new leaders who can provide transformative health care in their communities.”

The program combines classroom instruction with hands-on learning, job shadowing and mentorship. The Vietnamese Friendship Association will provide career counseling so students can apply for health care jobs and secondary education programs. Ninety-eight percent of Seattle World School students are immigrants or refugees, and 97% qualify for free or reduced lunch.

“While students at Seattle World School are extremely motivated to pursue their dreams, they may lack awareness of their options,” said Kate Ceronsky, nurse practitioner at ICHS and one of the program’s founders. “We are giving them tools for exploration, as well as a stepping stone for the future.”

Additional training programs at ICHS
Students 18 and over who complete the program can apply for additional ICHS professional training programs and opportunities that lead directly into a career in health care. For example, ICHS, in conjunction with Washington Association Community Health, offers a one-year registered Medical Assistant Apprenticeship, a full-time, paid position that combines formal instruction with on-the-job training. After completion, graduates take the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) exam to obtain state credentials. Apprentices are contracted with ICHS for an additional year after obtaining certification. ICHS plans to become a training site for a similar apprenticeship for dental assistants in 2020. Both programs help ICHS build a pipeline of qualified health professionals that reflect the communities in which it serves.

Closing a cultural gap in health care
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care will add 2.4 million new jobs and grow 18% from 2016 to 2026, more than any other occupational group. The agency says this projected growth is due to an aging population that is placing greater demand on services. As a result, many areas of the U.S. are experiencing a shortage in primary care physicians, registered nurses and other certified health workers.

This labor shortage is occurring as minorities continue to face health care disparities. Research suggests that medical providers who give patients culturally competent care — which respects a person’s heritage and values — often see improved patient outcomes.

“In increasing the numbers and diversity of qualified health professionals, ICHS is helping close persistent cultural gaps to create more vibrant communities that benefit us all,” said Batayola.