UNK Launches New Academy for Health Sciences Researchers to Address Nationwide Workforce Need – UNK News


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UNK communication disorders professor Michelle McKelvey, right, leads a session on augmentative and alternative communication during the Health Sciences Research Academy. Kearney Catholic High School junior Trista Tool, left, and Shelton High School senior Skyler Summers are among nine students participating in the health-focused program. (Photos by Erika Pritchard, UNK Communications)

By TYLER ELLISON
UNK Communications

KEARNEY – Skyler Summers represents the future of health care in Nebraska.

The Shelton High School graduate wants to work as a primary care physician, a position that allows her to directly impact patients of all ages and help improve their lives.

“In Nebraska, 13 of the 93 counties lack any primary care specialists,” Summers said. “I know I could fill that need.”

Summers plans to practice in rural Nebraska, where there is an urgent need for more doctors, dentists, mental health professionals, nurses, occupational therapists, speech therapists and other health care professionals.

“I know I want to stay in Nebraska,” she said. “It’s always felt like home and I love the communities around it.”

That mentality made her a perfect candidate for the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s new Health Sciences Research Academy. Launched earlier this year, the build program aims to expand the state’s health care workforce by exposing high school students to educational and career opportunities in the field.

Sarah Brunner
Sarah Brunner

“It’s so important to get more students into the health care workforce because there’s such a shortage right now,” said Sarah Brunner, coordinator of UNK’s Health Sciences Scholars Program. “We want students to be excited about the health care professions and the opportunities that exist in our state.”

Open to juniors and seniors, the Health Sciences Researcher Academy features a mix of hands-on activities, simulations, guest speakers, field trips and advanced training from UNK faculty and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Participants meet once a month from September through May and spend a full day on the UNK campus while learning about health sciences and various career paths.

“It’s a chance for students who are interested in health care to come to campus and do a little deeper dive into some specific areas to identify their interests and hopefully lead them to a career they’ll love,” Brunner said.

This month’s meeting focused on communication disorders and behavioral health, and future topics include sports medicine, eye optics and medical imaging, and nuclear medicine. Participants will also tour the CHI Health Good Samaritan, explore UNMC’s programs in the Health Sciences Education Complex on campus and check out a medical helicopter while meeting with a nurse.

Summers enrolled in the academy to gain more experience in the medical field and expand her understanding of other health professions.

“Even though I know I want to be a doctor, I know that I will experience and interact with these other professions in my career, so having this basic knowledge will benefit me in the future,” she said.

Outside of the academy, Summers gained hands-on experience through job shadowing at First Care Medical in Kearney and Butler County Clinic in David City, where her uncle works, and will soon begin volunteering at CHI Health Good Samaritan.

She plans to attend UNK and will apply to the Kearney Health Opportunities Program (KHOP), a collaboration between UNK and UNMC that recruits and trains students from rural Nebraska who are committed to practicing in these fields as medical professionals. Participants receive a full tuition scholarship to attend UNK and guaranteed admission to UNMC if all requirements are met. The KHOP Learning Community provides additional support, mentoring and professional development opportunities for first-year UNK students, along with a $2,000 room waiver.

Students who graduate from the Health Science Explorers Academy earn a $400 room and board stipend at UNK. A total of nine students, all from rural communities, are part of the inaugural academic class.

“These are juniors and seniors who can come home after college and make a big impact in their communities,” Brunner said. “They can find work anywhere, regardless of the setting.”

For more information about the Health Science Explorers Academy, call 308-865-8144 or email [email protected]

The following students, listed by high school, are part of the UNK Health Science Explorers Academy:
Amherst – Aubrey Lamberts
Central City – Autumn Hewitt
Central City – Lilyauna Longoria-Henson
Chambers – Brianna Clabenes
Kearney Catholic – Alex Abels
Kearney Catholic – Trista Tool
Kearney High – Emily Korb
Shelby-Rising City – Eli Frederick
Shelton – Skyler Summers

Kearney High School senior Emily Korb participates in an activity during the Academy for Health Sciences Research meeting last week at UNK.
Kearney High School senior Emily Korb participates in an activity during the Academy for Health Sciences Research meeting last week at UNK.


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