Growing up in northern Massachusetts and attending public school, I followed my role model and became a dental hygienist. Considering my academic achievement at the time, it was a stretch goal for me. I loved the profession.
When my physician husband started his Internal Medicine practice, I took on the role of operations manager where I remained for 18 years. It was after my career pivot to executive coaching with a global company that I saw the gaps and disparities in healthcare- unsustainable cost, barriers to access, quality, and the lack of diversity among professionals were troubling.
When I learned that by 2020, one-third of the nation’s physicians would be 65 or older, I wanted to know who was going to do the work. Who is responsible for our healthcare workforce pipeline? Government? Education? Corporations? For a four trillion dollar industry, certainly, someone was responsible for the talent pipeline in an industry where literally everyone is a consumer. We live in a supply and demand economy and this didn’t look good, considering 10,000 people a day are turning 65, chronic disease is on the rise, students completing STEM education in college is on a steep decline and those numbers are flat for Black and Latinx students all while the intersection of healthcare and technology impacts every aspect of the industry.
The more I learned, the more motivated I became. Not all schools have STEM education programs and the quality is substantially different between schools. Students benefit exponentially from career awareness in an industry that is changing quickly, particularly in emerging research and development such as gene therapy and stem cell therapy. There is a need to foster Black, Latinx, women, and rural students to bring intercultural competency in their work to the population they will one day serve. The impact of an intentional talent pipeline will improve health outcomes, patient experience, and cost. The greatest barriers to developing a qualified, diverse workforce are the lack of fundamental skills, career awareness, belief, academic preparation, and post-secondary education, geographic and demographic gaps.
But what if…
we could develop a program for every high school, in every region to provide access to a high-quality STEM curriculum, include competencies that are imperative for high-performing teams, allow high school students to shadow a broad range of careers across healthcare and life sciences to learn how they can apply what they love about STEM to a rewarding career, and connect students to companies that are in search of talent?
And that’s what we did.
I’m very proud of the model we created and the promise of building a talent pipeline that is diverse, qualified, and eager to accept the challenge to serve the next generation in healthcare.