It was the first practice of the 2013 basketball season. A star player was charging down the court -- sweating, focused, intense -- when he suddenly collapsed to the floor, mid-shot. Unbeknownst to the coaches, his family and himself, he suffered from a rare heart condition. In that very moment, the sixteen-year-old’s heart abruptly stopped beating. For an infinite moment, everyone froze in place, unsure of what to do, what course of action to take. Next, chaos erupted: coaches rushed to his side, someone called 911, players were screaming in horror. But in the midst of the confusion, three sports medicine students with incredible presence of mind, rushed to the equipment closet and grabbed the automatic external defibrillator. While one searched for the player’s non-existent pulse, another performed chest compressions and the third applied the AED shock. Their quick response and superior training, without a doubt, saved this student’s life. The incident reaffirmed the importance of the Valencia High School’s Sports Medicine Pathway, and became the impetus to evolve it into our exemplary Medical Science Academy.
Since its inception, Valencia High School has been on the forefront of Career Technical Education, with a wide variety of school-to-career programs and opportunities. Our model program, the Medical Science Academy (MSA), is truly unique and cutting edge in the William S. Hart School District. MSA was established in the fall of 2015. It evolved from the Sports Medicine Program, which began at Valencia High School in 2002 as a career pathway. This pathway initially served to meet the needs of students who planned to become athletic trainers, and coaches who needed extra support in rehabilitating injured athletes. The pathway grew rapidly. By 2013, approximately sixty students were actively involved on the sidelines at all major sporting events, engaged in treating and preventing athletic injuries. The episode with the basketball player identified an even greater need for cutting-edge medical training and support, and it inspired a greater number of our student population to get a jump-start toward a career in healthcare by choosing this high school path. MSA was designed to fulfill these needs, with additional goals including cross-curricular lessons, meaningful internship opportunities with business partners, a focus on mental health and wellness, and specified leadership training.
The MSA is the only school-within-a-school in our district -- in other words, a four-year career technical high school education (CTE) model program that infuses medical knowledge into general education classes, while offering specialized elective classes and opportunities to prepare students for future careers in the healthcare.The academy has been specially designed to fuel the passion of students interested in healthcare fields, from EMTs and medical technicians to athletic trainers and surgeons. While all students who share this passion are encouraged to apply, the instructors make a special effort during visits to feeder junior highs to recruit students from underperforming target groups, including students with 2.5-3.0 GPAs. Student buy-in and the sense of purpose MSA students get from their classes has resulted in solid GPAs, high attendance and no suspensions. Students can graduate the academy with honors if they complete more than sixty hours of work-based learning each semester, from their sophomore to senior years. Students must be dedicated to helping others, developing communication skills, and working outside their comfort zones. Being a person of good character is mandatory. There are elements of the program devoted to mental health and wellness, to address and prevent the current rise of anxiety and depression among high school students.
While certain essential resources were acquired from the Sports Medicine Program, MSA is currently funded by the district and through CTE grants. Due to these grants, the program has been able to purchase technological innovations that provide students real-life, state-of-the-art medical training. For instance, the students practice on the SimMan 3G Manikin from Laerdal, that can display neurological and physiological symptoms. It is wireless, fully mobile and human sized, and is used to simulate actual emergencies. Another technological purchase for the academy is the Anatomage table. This table is a fully interactive, comprehensive 3D visualization tool with intuitive hands-on interface used for medical education and presentations.
Because CPR education, as outlined by the American Heart Association, is so important to academy training, the students acquire the necessary skills using two Resusci Anne Manikins, which measure the compression, depth, rate, fraction of hands off/on and ventilation volumes and rates. In the beginning of the year, students use these Manikins to earn certification in Basic Life Support CPR and First Aid, HIPAA, OSHA, Blood-borne Pathogens and Use and Administration of Epinephrine Auto Injectors. Students then have the opportunity to apply these high-level skills when working with Valencia High School’s seventeen sports teams and during school disaster training exercises. Classroom facilities include combination desks/rehabilitation tables, taping tables and anatomy models. The equipment, facilities and direct application of knowledge mirror a college level program.
In 2016, MSA won the Safe School Award, honoring exemplary sports medicine programs that support athletic safety by establishing Emergency Action Plans, providing athletic trainers, and maintaining proper medical equipment, including multiple AEDs (we have seven on the VHS campus). MSA is very proud of this accomplishment. VHS is the only school in the William S. Hart District to be lauded by an award of this caliber for medical education.
IMPLEMENTATION AND MONITORING
MSA is fully supported by three different administrations, who provide instructors, specialized professional development and regular collaboration time. The school counselors work hard to overcome specific student scheduling challenges, allowing students to be grouped together in grade-level cohorts. Core teachers infuse medical terminology, relevant academic vocabulary, research, relevant articles and specialized projects into the core classes: English, science, social studies, math and Spanish. Most of the MSA core classes are homogeneous classes, comprised of only MSA students. Within the cohorts, the curriculum is aligned horizontally. For example, each grade level is responsible for completing a healthcare related, college-level research paper. The science teachers help the students research their topics, the English teachers help them develop writing skills and the students present their findings during the CTE classes. Furthermore, MSA is vertically aligned, moving from general patient care training during the freshman and sophomore years to more specific upper class options that build on previous knowledge and experience. At the end of each school year, all freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors create a culminating and comprehensive presentation to the MSA faculty, other MSA students, business partners, parents and special guests. Each grade presentation expands upon the previous year’s work. The presentations of this year’s current senior class will be very exciting since they are the academy’s first graduating class, the first students who have progressed through the vertical alignment.
MSA teachers use collaboration time to continuously modify their instructional methods, plan cross-curricular projects, differentiate instruction based on a student’s individualized academic needs and to analyze student achievement. An important goal of the MSA instructors is to consider the whole student, including not only their grades, but their extra-curricular activities and emotional/social well-being. MSA instructors want MSA students to feel assured there are adult mentors who are invested in them, both academically and personally.
In addition to classroom curriculum and instruction, MSA offers myriad, year-round extra-curricular opportunities. Many are sponsored by the Career Technical Student Organization known as HOSA (Future Health Professionals). HOSA offers leadership opportunities, conferences, character development and travel. The students especially love the challenges offered during the State Leadership Conference, which includes testing opportunities that provide the students and the program with valuable feedback. MSA students are required to undertake thirty hours of internship opportunities, as well as complete ten additional hours of healthcare-related volunteer community service. MSA belongs to the National Honor Society of Sports Medicine and hosts two blood drives a year in conjunction with the UCLA Blood Drive outreach.
To monitor progress and to share new ideas, MSA’s advisory board meets biannually with its business partners, staff, stakeholders from local colleges, parents, students and district officials. In addition to participating on the advisory board, numerous medical business partners provide internship opportunities and serve as guest speakers, panelists and mentors. Partners include physicians, nurses, chiropractors, physical therapists, EMT’s, podiatrists, occupational therapists, orthopedists and athletic trainers.
Each month, a six-page newsletter is sent to parents and other stakeholders, summarizing past events and outlining upcoming happenings. Parents are made fully aware of free weekly tutoring opportunities. Other communication platforms include the MSA website (vhsmsa.org) and various social media used to promote MSA adventures and achievements. MSA recently established a parent booster club to increase parental involvement.
RESULTS AND OUTCOMES
MSA is now in its fourth year. With the 2018-2019 school year in progress, the first four- year cluster is complete. MSA currently has 200 students enrolled from grades 9 - 12. All students are on track to complete four years of math and science, and all students have completed Naviance. The students who enroll all four years will complete a pathway in either Sports Medicine or Emergency Medicine. Forty percent of MSA students are enrolled in Honors and AP classes and all will fulfill the collegiate A-G requirements. Based on past data, all MSA graduates either go straight to a four-year university, attend two years at a junior college where they prepare for university, acquire associates degrees in medically-related fields, or enter the military. For example, in tracking the graduates from 2008 - 2018, seventy-five went straight to four-year universities, twenty-two enrolled in junior college and then transferred to four-year universities and four are currently serving our country in the armed forces.
Data from MSA’s first four-year cluster of 200 students, grades 9 - 12, reveal that the total GPA average for the quarter grade of the fall semester was 3.60. This increased to a 3.71 GPA for the semester. The improvements in the second quarter are credited to personal talks, specialized interventions and additional tutoring. A more specific data breakdown shows ninety-five students with above 4.0 GPAs, seventy-six students with between 3.0 - 3.99 GPAs, and twenty-nine students with below 3.0 GPAs. MSA is extremely proud of this high level of academic achievement, not only for its own merits, but also because the target recruitment group is students with a 2.5-3.0 GPA. Most students continue a similar trajectory in high school, but MSA students, across the board, improve. Despite these successes, MSA instructors are constantly analyzing ways to improve, specifically targeting the lower achieving students. MSA instructors use effective differentiation and intervention strategies to help challenge students to learn and grow.
MSA is so proud to be at the forefront of current trends in career technical education. The Academy honors a founding principle of Valencia High School: the relevancy of school to career. MSA embraces the philosophy that student achievement correlates with student interest; that students are motivated in school when they can see future potential. A strength of the MSA program is that it targets ALL students who express interest in healthcare. The program is equally invested in the success of students who strive to become EMTs and medical technicians as it is in those whose goals are to attend medical school. MSA honors the career potential of all its students.
While other schools in the district are developing similar medical science pathways, the Valencia High School MSA program remains on the cutting-edge of meaningful career education by having and executing a growth mindset. The leaders and instructors of the MSA are committed to the evolution of the program, as well as the individual success of each and every student participant.