Program launches Camden students in health careers

Siobhan Forrester-Long can’t wait to go to work.
The 17-year-old is among 10 Camden high school seniors selected to participate in a new medical assistant training program launching this month.
Sponsored by the Rowan University/Rutgers–Camden Board of Governors, the $30,000 program will recruit and train young Camden residents for jobs in outpatient medical offices in Camden and Cherry Hill.
The students from Woodrow Wilson High School and Camden High School were selected from a pool of 37 applicants, and introduced to the board during its public meeting in Camden on Tuesday.
“Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a pediatrician,” said a beaming Forrester-Long. “I always wanted to work in the medical field. As soon as I heard about this program, I thought this would be a great thing for me to do. It’s a start.”
The board of governors was created to develop educational and economic opportunities in Camden, said CEO Kris Kolluri, and the program helps fulfill that purpose.
“There is a tremendous need in the city for entry-level medical assistants,” Kolluri said. “Health care organizations are currently struggling to hire front-line clinical staff with the right mix of skills and aptitude.”
The Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers will mentor and train the students during the apprenticeship. They will work after school from 2 to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
When they graduate high school in June, the students will enroll as a group in a specially designed program at Camden County College. Their tuition will be paid by One-Stop Career Center and the N.J. Education Association.
Once they become certified medical assistants in December, they will be eligible for full-time employment at health-care organizations in Camden.
The apprenticeship program answers a specific need in Camden’s job market, explained Katharine Royer, program manager for the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers.
“We’re working with Camden County College to enhance the program they already have, and incorporate topics like harm reduction and trauma-informed care — things we find are really important when working with patients in the community.”
The young recruits are especially suited for such work in the city, Royer added.
“They know what it’s like to live here,” Royer said. “They see on a day-to-day basis what people are dealing with.”

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