Johnson & Johnson Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics employee Mark Steelman gives students a demo of one of the company’s products.
Medical career path starts in high school
Twenty-eight sophomores from five high schools serving Livingston County are getting a two-year course in college planning through the “Bridge to Employment” program sponsored by Johnson & Johnson.
The company’s Rochester-based Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics subsidiary is leading the program — and providing mentors — in an ongoing series of workshops that includes resumé-writing, college application assistance, job-shadowing and tours of 12 college campuses.
The program’s goal is to stimulate interest in math and science, and ultimately a career in the medical industry — including being a doctor or nurse, technical work, law, accounting, engineering, or marketing.
This is the second time Johnson & Johnson has worked with the Livingston County Education Alliance to coordinate student participation from Avon, Caledonia-Mumford, Dansville, Mount Morris and Wayland-Cohocton.
The students were selected after a competitive application process that included detailed letters of reference from a school administrator, teacher, guidance counselor and community member.
“Kids who came out of the first program had a much better outline of what they wanted to do with the rest of their life — which is beneficial when they’re planning for college,” explained BEA executive director Carrie Malone.
Students meet for a full day twice a month throughout the school year. The summer program includes overnight stays at colleges and universities in the Rochester area. “Students stay in dorms, visit with professors,” explained Malone. “We have social activities and team-building exercises while we are on campus.”
Johnson & Johnson pays for transportation and provides students with a “college prep account” that can be used to pay for community college classes in high school, application fees, ACT and SAT tests, and deposits on tuition and books for the first semester of college.
“This allows us to give each of these kids a head start,” said Malone. Economics can be a big barrier to college. Otherwise, some of our students would be left struggling with the question of how to pay for all of this.”
Steering Team Leader Derek Henderson and five other employees from Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics will work with students in 30 different events throughout the two-year program, mentoring students and giving presentations on how to choose the right college, get accepted and apply for financial aid.
“These students may be the first generation to attend college,” said Henderson. “That whole process is daunting, even if you’ve done it before.”
Students also develop a clearer idea of which field they’d like to pursue by shadowing medical professionals in both the hospital room and the laboratory.
They also visit college campuses from the small Keuka College, with 1,400 students, up to Syracuse University, which is ten times larger.
Most importantly, students learn that a solid grounding in math and science means greater career flexibility later on in life.
“I’ve been in the working world for 20 years now, in a dozen different jobs in many disciplines. You’re not locked in. If you pick a career, it doesn’t mean you’ll be doing it for the rest of your life.”
This month, students will participate in a Career Day at Johnson & Johnson OCD where employees will explain the specific functions and education needed for their jobs.
Students will also participate in a distance learning program where they will be able to watch a live open heart surgery and ask the surgeon and nurses questions along the way.
The first “Bridge to Employment” program ran from 2006-2009.
“It was almost like raising your own kids — and all of them got into a college or university,” reflects Henderson.