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Program guides students’ decision


A partnership between Quakertown Community High School and St. Luke’s Quakertown Hospital is helping students considering a potential career in the medical field.

The Medical Career Pathways program is designed to give high school seniors opportunities to learn about numerous aspects of the healthcare profession. Students are onsite at the St. Luke’s Quakertown Campus twice a week throughout the school year. A combination of lecture and clinical observation exposes them to major service lines and support services from surgery, radiology and lab services to the cafeteria, nursing and pharmacy.

“The MCP program has proved to be a valuable tool for students to help them determine their paths within the medical and health sciences field,” said QCHS counselor Erica Henry. “Each year we get more applications for the program due to the positive reputation it has earned. The students are so enthusiastic and focused. I only see the program continuing to flourish and grow in the future.”

MCP was one of the first programs David Finnerty started when he became the high school principal. “It gives our kids insights into medical careers, and a competitive advantage,” he said. “I’m very thankful to St. Luke’s for all they do in this partnership.”

Earlier in May, on the final day of the progam for the semester, Sherry Casey, a St. Luke’s nurse and education specialist, met with the students and asked about their experiences.

She said 25 years ago, she didn’t know what nursing was. “Had I had this opportunity, I would have been better prepared for what was ahead,” she said. “This allows us to embed students in multiple clinical settings, and affords them the opportunity to decide whether a healthcare career is for them.”

One day a week students got to hear a lecture this semester from professionals on topics that included sports medicine, behavioral health, emergency medical services, nursing, podiatry and pre-hospital emergency medicine.

They also saw a chest biopsy, a gall bladder operation and had other clinical observations, directly interfacing with physicians, staff, state-of-the-art technology and caregivers. “It’s been a well-rounded experience for them,” Casey said.

Qualifying for this program is a challenge, as the students are among the district’s highest achievers. Suzie Njunge, for example, plans to study pre-med at Temple and ultimately become a pediatric neonatologist to help ill or premature newborns.

Her long-term goals are even more far-reaching. “I’d eventually like to work with Doctors Without Borders and open my own clinics worldwide,” Njunge said. “This has been a really good opportunity for our class. We got to see all different types of medical specialties. And it’s not necessarily just about medicine. You might want to be a hospital administrator or case worker. This has been a great experience.”

Andrew Labeeb plans to study pre-med at the University of the Sciences and become a neurosurgeon.

“This (program) showed me there’s a lot more than a single way to look at one thing,” he said. “I have no interest in becoming a podiatrist, but I can see how knowing about it can help you if you’re treating someone for something else. It’s good to know a little about everything, and a lot about one thing. This program helped with that.”

Labeeb also offered advice to future MCP students. “Don’t be scared to speak out or ask a question,” he said, “because that question may trigger something for someone else and gets them thinking.”

Gary Weckselblatt is director of communications for Quakertown Community School District.