Stadium High School’s new Health and Medicine Academy prepares students for the industry's hottest job categories

6/16/2018 | TACOMA, Washington

It was hard to tell who was more excited – students or parents – during orientation night for Stadium High School's new Health and Medicine Academy.

"I don't remember anything like this when I was in high school," said parent Steve Stackpole while checking out the healthcare career information booths planted across the gym by the colleges and employers supporting the program. "I think it's a great thing."

Stackpole's daughter, Samantha, is one of 77 incoming freshman who will join the inaugural class of the groundbreaking program when it begins this fall.

"This is going to be fun because we get to explore all these different (healthcare industry) occupations," she said.

The Health and Medicine Academy (HMA) will launch as a partnership between Tacoma Public Schools, MultiCare Health System, CHI Franciscan, University of Washington Tacoma, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma Community College, Bates Technical College, Goodwill Industries and the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation.

Partners have worked for nearly three years on a way to prepare Tacoma students for the ocean of jobs in the growing healthcare industry—at a time when the industry faces a shortage of talent.

The healthcare industry will add more than 4 million jobs between 2012 and 2022, according to estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Academy students will take regular high school classes in the mornings before taking specialty classes focused on healthcare in the afternoons during each of their four years at Stadium.  A team of three teachers and a program coordinator will guide their journey along with professionals from partner agencies.  

The students will hear from guest speakers, take field trips, participate in internships and team with mentors– all aimed at acquainting them with various career options and readying them to continue their education or go straight to work after high school graduation.

Each school year will add a new crop of Academy freshmen recruited from all Tacoma middle schools.

"We really want this to be a true intro to everything the constantly growing field of healthcare has to offer," said Stadium Assistant Principal Shannon Marshall, the Academy's lead administrator. "It's not just about becoming a doctor or a nurse. There are whole fields beyond that."

Evan Fry said he signed up for the program with his sights set on saving lives as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

"You get to be the first responder," he said. "A lot of excitement, a lot of energy, goes into it."

Evan's father, Scott, applauded the "awesome opportunity" awaiting his son and the other students.

"I love the community partnership aspect," he said. "We're big fans of the program."

The Academy is another program—similar to School of the Arts and the Science and Math Institute—in Tacoma Public Schools to align itself closely with a specific field.

Lois Bernstein, chief community executive with MultiCare Health System in Tacoma, approached the school district about three years ago with the concept.

Bernstein asked MultiCare's human resources department to list their hottest job categories.

"They came back with 37 high-growth job categories—and we were having difficulty filling 23 of them," Bernstein said.

Aware that Tacoma Public Schools embraces innovation, Bernstein told Superintendent Carla Santorno about the opportunities awaiting students in the healthcare sector and floated the idea of a health careers high school to help meet the demand for employees.

Santorno bought in. So did University of Washington Tacoma Chancellor Mark Pagano. Together the three took the concept and created the momentum that became the Tacoma Healthcare Careers Collaborative, a multi-partner team that supports efforts to create the Academy at Stadium.

"This is a good example of what Tacoma can do when a group of people come together and decide they want to build a path for students," Santorno said.

A goal of the program? Attract a range of diverse students to address inequity in the healthcare workforce, where Hispanics and African-Americans show up in disproportionately low numbers, Bernstein said.

While the partners have settled on the freshman program, they continue to work on program enhancements, such as awarding high school students community college credits and refining curriculum so some students can graduate from the Academy with certifications that could lead directly to jobs.

If the program catches on at Stadium, the partners could replicate it at other Tacoma high schools.

Anisa Woodruff sees the Health and Medicine Academy as step one toward her dream of becoming a surgeon.

"I'm excited because it will help me get a look at what I want to do in the future," she said.

Anisa's mother, Tremeka Sagger, said the best thing about the program is, "It shows kids they can be a lot of amazing things."
Tacoma Healthcare Careers Collaborative, a multi-partner team that supports efforts to create the Academy at Stadium.

Sample list of healthcare careers

  • Anesthesiology
  • Audiology
  • Behavioral health
  • Biotechnology
  • Dentistry
  • Emergency medicine
  • Imaging technologist
  • Information technology
  • Laboratory technician
  • Nursing
  • Nutrition
  • Occupational health
  • Optometry
  • Orthopedics
  • Pharmacy
  • Phlebotomy
  • Physical therapy
  • Physician
  • Sonography
  • Surgeon