Oklahoma Students Receive Scholarships at Inaugural Healthcare Career Exploration Day

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Oklahoma Students Receive Scholarships at Inaugural Healthcare Career Exploration Day

To spark interest in the rewarding field of healthcare and address future workforce needs, OU Health and the University of Oklahoma hosted an inaugural Healthcare Career Exploration Day for high school students in March.

The collaboration creates a student pipeline with local high schools by increasing student interest in healthcare careers and addressing the critical shortage of healthcare professionals in Oklahoma and beyond.

“By inviting students to explore various healthcare careers through hands-on demonstrations, networking and mentorship, OU Health intends to inspire and prepare the next generation for careers in healthcare,” said Jimmy Duncan, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, Chief Human Resources Officer at OU Health.

The roughly 270 students who attended the Healthcare Career Exploration Day toured all seven professional colleges at OU Health Sciences, spoke with college representatives, interacted with the OU Health executive team and explored new technology through OU Health’s partnership with Siemens Healthineers.

Surprise Scholarships

As part of the healthcare career-focused event, five randomly selected Oklahoma students were surprised with $5,000 scholarships to study at OU Health Sciences.

Abigail Flores and Anna Tellez, both of Oklahoma City Public Schools; Essence Felder and Marsette Holmes, both of Millwood High School; and Karla Aguilar, a senior at Moore Public Schools, were the lucky recipients.

“I was shaking,” said Felder, who plans to study radiology after graduation. “My grandmother was in radiology on the administrative side, and my mom is also in the medical field. I just knew that’s what I wanted to do. For me, it was like saying I’m in the right spot.”

Holmes knows her path is in healthcare as well and said the scholarship will go far in alleviating worries about attending college.

“I’m considering getting my bachelor’s in sonography,” the Millwood senior said. “Just knowing I have some type of money to go towards my career is a relief.”

OU Health's decision to offer surprise scholarships to five attendees underscores the organization’s commitment to investing in the future of healthcare education and reducing financial barriers for students passionate about pursuing healthcare careers.

This generous gesture underscores the organization's dedication to providing a support mechanism for students to achieve their educational and professional goals in healthcare, Duncan said.

“Helping to reduce the financial burden to students and even our own employees through things like tuition reimbursement and student loan forgiveness are key strategies that will help us become an employer of choice by making the achievement of continuous education a part of everyone’s career journey of growth,” Duncan said.

Addressing Healthcare Workforce Demand

The Healthcare Career Exploration Day initiative aligns with OU Health's mission of improving lives through healing and discovery, aiming to build a robust and dynamic workforce capable of meeting the current and future healthcare demands. OU Health’s Winning Aspiration is to be the destination of choice for patients with complex and serious conditions and to be known as a top-tier academic referral center. To meet that aspiration, a prepared and motivated workforce is necessary.

“Today, we are facing a pressing, operational challenge of workforce instability caused by the lack of clinical staff. It is not unique to Oklahoma; we see this nationwide,” Duncan said. “Our goal is to build a best-in-class, comprehensive student pipeline model, partnering with OU Health Sciences.”

This event emerged as a strategic solution to engage, educate and encourage students to consider and pursue healthcare careers. Exposing young Oklahomans to real-life stories and experiences by OU Health and OU Health Sciences professionals fosters their interest and inspires them to explore a multitude of opportunities at OU Health, Duncan said.

“For students, it opens the door to meaningful and stable careers with the potential for impact and growth,” Duncan said. “For OU Health, this event addresses the immediate and long-term need for healthcare professionals, ensuring sustainability in providing high-quality care. Additionally, it fosters a stronger connection between OU Health and the community by directly contributing to local education and workforce development.”