Health Careers Opportunity Program Expands Access to Education and Professional Experience
Through support from the John Boner Neighborhood Center and the IndyEast Promise Zone, the IUPUI Health Careers Opportunity Program has given promising young adults in Indianapolis the means to overcome obstacles that would otherwise prevent them from pursuing certificates and advanced degrees in health profession.
In light of the discoveries that Indiana resides in the bottom quintile of states ranked by healthiness and that Indianapolis is a health professional shortage area, the Indiana University School of Health and Human Sciences determined a need to take a more proactive approach to recruiting and training healthcare professionals. With support from staff at the John Boner Neighborhood Center, leaders at the Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) applied for and were awarded a three-year grant from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration for the Indiana University Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP). This program provides disadvantaged students with the academic and social skills necessary to successfully graduate from health professions programs and diversify the demographic makeup of health professionals.
Three programs exist under the HCOP: the Indiana University-HCOP Junior Summer Camp, the Saturday Student Academy, and the Pre-Health Professions Enrichment Program.
- The Junior Summer Camp is a six-week program for rising high school juniors and seniors that provides financial, academic, and social support to cultivate skills that are critical to careers interested in math, science, or healthcare.
- The Saturday Student Academy is a 20-week program designed to support high school juniors and seniors who want to pursue healthcare careers through interactive workshops featuring math, science, language arts, and other college-readiness skills, as well as components of the Healthy People 2020 curriculum. Saturday Student Academy students benefit from opportunities to make worksite visits, shadow healthcare professionals, and hold discussions with healthcare panelists.
- The Pre-Health Professions Enrichment Program partnership between IU-HCOP and the John Boner Neighborhood Center focuses on adults and other non-traditional learners. The intensive eight-week program includes certification classes, 20 hours of health professional shadowing and clinical rotations, healthcare professional presentations, and career exploration workshops.
In addition to the abovementioned community-oriented programs, HCOP supports eligible students who are either enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences (BSHS) at IUPUI or transferring to the BSHS program from Ivy Tech Community College. Students who intend to pursue a health profession are assigned mentors that provide extra academic support, and invite them to attend workshops with topics such as Health Related Career Opportunities and Applying for Pre-Professional Programs. Similarly, graduate students currently enrolled in the School of Health and Human Sciences’ professional programs who meet the HCOP’s eligibility requirements are connected with mentors in their respective professional fields and given tailored assistance in making smooth transitions from their undergraduate studies.
IU-HCOP regularly welcomes volunteers and community partners currently involved in healthcare professions to give tours of their workplaces, speak to students about their professional experiences, and mentor undergraduate and professional graduate students. Aside from the John Boner Neighborhood Center, whose grant application resources and connections have proven key, some of the IU-HCOP’s most valuable partners are Eskenazi Health and the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana. Ivy Tech is also a noteworthy partner, being a major “feeder” school to IUPUI.
As a rigorous program requiring students to enter a profession upon completion, the HCOP has been enormously successful, as the 95 and 97 percent retention rates of its Saturday Student Academy and Junior Summer Camp (respectively) have shown. In preparation for the expiration of HCOP’s current grant in August, the program’s leaders have applied for a five year grant (also from the Health Resources and Services Administration) to continue the program, along with other funding sources to expand the program. As the HCOP grows and continues to provide opportunities to young adults in Indianapolis, program leaders at IUPUI intend to make more comprehensive efforts to track student progress and achievement throughout and following the conclusion of their academic careers. They note that male enrollment at local high schools has suffered, namely on account of programs coinciding with athletic practices, and accordingly plan to more actively identify and accommodate the needs of male students and other subsets of eligible students who may face obstacles to participating in the HCOP.
For more information on the Health Careers Opportunity Program at IUPUI, visit https://shrs.iupui.edu/about/IU-HCOP/index.html.
 United Health Foundation. (2015). America’s Health Rankings. Retrieved from https://assets.americashealthrankings.org/app/uploads/2015ahr_annual-v1.pdf
 Indiana Primary Health Care Association. Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) & Medically Underserved Area (MUA) Designations. Retrieved from https://www.indianapca.org/page/20?