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Medical Prep School Graduates First Class

Medical Prep School Graduates First Class

Rush provides students with internships, mentoring and more

By Charles Jolie

Jennifer Banks will begin her freshman year at Dartmouth College this fall. Once she’s finished her studies at the Ivy League college, she plans to pursue a career in community and population health.

Banks credits a summer internship at Rush University Medical Center with helping her determine he future path, and says other Rush internships did the same for her fellow students at Richard T. Crane Medical Preparatory High School.

“Because of the internships, we are able to figure out what we want to do in health care. We got exposure to so many facets of the health care field that it gives confidence,” says Banks, a native of Chicago’s South Chicago neighborhood

Banks was the valedictorian of Crane’s first class of graduates, who received their diplomas at a June 17 ceremony at Symphony Center attended by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Larry Goodman, MD, CEO of the Rush system and Rush University Medical Center.

The leaders’ presence at the event reflects the collaboration between the city and Rush in revitalizing Crane, and its importance to both partners. The school was on the brink of closing in the fall of 2011 due to dropping enrollment and poor test scores until city officials and Rush leaders proposed turning the school into the city’s only health and science academy to prepare students to pursue careers in health care.

Graduates are on track for health careers

The reinvented school’s first senior class achieved a 100 percent graduation rate, an exultant Emanuel told the cheering crowd of students and family members. In addition to Banks, all 118 Crane graduates have the following plans for their futures.

  • More than 75 percent will be attending a four-year college or university.
  • About 20 percent will enter a career pipeline program that includes attending Malcolm X College for two years, then entering Rush University’s Bachelor of Health Sciences program to work towards careers in nursing and other health care professions
  • The remaining Crane graduates are entering the military. 

‘Rush is a part of what we do every day’

Rush nurses, faculty physicians, and nursing and medical students had been working and volunteering at Crane for many years. Reopening the school as a health and science academy in 2013 accelerated Rush’s strategy of helping build healthier communities by investing in career pipeline development efforts. Crane’s transformation is part of the city’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, which gives high school students the chance to get a head start on preparing for college and careers.

Every Crane student was able to participate in onsite, experiential learning curricula at Rush that meet the CTE grade level guidelines for awareness, exploration and application of workplace knowledge and skills. Further, dozens of Rush University faculty members, students and staff volunteered to provide additional mentoring, tutoring and summer internships to prepare the students make the transition to secondary education. 

“Our partnership shows the commitment that Rush has to the community,” says Crane’s principal, Fareeda Shabazz. “The students really feel a closeness with the Rush employees and professors. It feels like Rush is a part of what we do every day.”  

Rush internships help students understand and choose career options

“The summer internship is the cherry on top,” Shabazz adds. “It’s been a wonderful opportunity for our students.”

She notes that many students with an interest in being a doctor or nurse don’t truly understand the amount of work and empathy it requires. “Our goal is to expose students to the day-to-day of it as much as possible, so they can make an informed career decision,” she says.

Karen Mayer, PhD, RN, vice president of patient care services at Rush Oak Park Hospital, oversaw several dozen interns last summer and would love double that number this year.  “Their enthusiasm, ambition, and a desire to make a difference were simply wonderful,” Mayer says. 

The students worked in multiple areas of the hospital, helping patient and visitors navigate the building, facilitating communications among staff, and delivering important materials to laboratories. “The benefit to the students was the opportunity to see the diverse patients who require care and how kind, compassionate providers are so needed in those moments of illness and at times, crisis,” Mayer says.    

Internships include opportunities in information technology

About a dozen of the students will be pursuing health care careers via a different route: information technology. Jamie Parent, Rush’s vice president of Information Technology, hired a group as interns with the goal of preparing them for the opportunity-rich field of helping hospitals keep their information systems updated and operational.

“Not every health care career involves patient care,” Parent says. “These kids are focused, skilled, tough and smart. They’ve seized the opportunity to not only explore careers in health care information technology, but also earn marketable skills while still in high school.”

Rush is sponsoring each of the students' ongoing work and study towards earning Certified Consultants status by Epic Systems, creator of the most widely used hospital electronic medical records software. Last month the group visited the company’s corporate headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin.

“Earning Epic certification is designed to be tough and will open doors at hospitals across the country,” Parent says. “That these young men and women are excelling on this difficult path speaks volumes.”