Logo courtesy of Mountain Area Health Education Center website.

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Logo courtesy of Mountain Area Health Education Center website.

Some 500 high school students from across Western North Carolina will explore an array of career opportunities in the fields of health care, health education and more at the 12th annual Health Careers Education Awareness Conference, “Navigating Your Journey to a Health Career,” at UNC Asheville’s Wilma Sherrill Center on Tues., Oct. 11.

The day-long conference is organized by MAHEC’s Department of Health Careers & Diversity Education, UNC Asheville’s Career Center and the WNC Regional Advisory Committee, whose 28 members represent a range of educational and medical institutions.

“This is a challenging time for our high school students in terms of career planning and having a heightened awareness of their personal health and wellness,” said Jacquelyn Hallum, MAHEC’s Director of Health Careers & Diversity Education. “We have designed this conference to help students have a better understanding of health career opportunities, to increase personal health awareness through education, and to increase the number of minority and economically challenged students who matriculate in the health sciences and pursue careers in the health profession.”

High school students in MAHEC’s 16-county region have been invited to participate in this conference, which is the largest in the region, Hallum said.

“We want our Western North Carolina students to be prepared for the 21st-century health care workforce. The talents and abilities of a diverse workforce are needed to relieve staffing shortages in an already overburdened health care system and to help address issues of health equity,” she said.

Terry M. Bellamy, City of Asheville Mayor, is the keynote speaker. She will address the conference at 9:20 a.m.

Following her talk will be five concurrent sessions. Laura Misner of the College Foundation of North Carolina will discuss college financial aid;  Meg Hanshaw, a wellness consultant, will discuss personal fitness; Ned Fowler, A-B Tech Associate Vice President, will talk about planning and preparation for successful health careers; and Brandy Nicole Mills, a Mission Hospitals nurse educator, will talk about diversity in health care.  Michelle Lemell, of Asheville City Schools’ Safe and Drug Free Schools, will convene a panel on career and personal obstacles.

Later in the morning, a student panel will convene, representing the areas of pharmacy, nursing, health promotion, pre-med, emergency medical care, health information technology, medical assisting, health and wellness, medical laboratory technology, sonography and radiography.

The conference will wrap up with an interactive career fair, which will provide students with one-on-one opportunities with health care professionals and health science students from more than 40 professions. Representatives will demonstrate tools-of-the-trade and discuss what it is like to work in a particular field, what is required academically and the real-life realities of work.

For more information about the conference, go to www.mahec.net/media/brochures/HCEAC2011.pdf or call Jacquelyn Hallum at (828) 257-4479.

Kathleen O'Nan

Kathleen O'Nan is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press.

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