By Todd Martin

    Choosing a more rigorous educational path in order to help those most in need, a large group of ambitious Central Texas students put on white coats to begin a journey in healthcare education.

    The Temple College Texas Bioscience Institute welcomed 96 high school juniors from 12 area high schools in its annual white coat ceremony Wednesday.

    Temple College Associate Vice President of Academic Outreach Daniel Spencer likened the ceremony to a conversion in which students move from traditional academia to train specifically for a medical career.

    One by one, students stepped to the stage of the Mary Alice Marshall Performing Arts Center on the TC campus, handed Spencer a folded coat and allowed him to help put it on.

    The ceremonial tradition first established in medical schools, marks local students’ entrance into a dual credit program that will split their school days between their home high school campuses and the TBI Temple campus. They will have a chance to earn two years of college credit and an associate’s degree.

    “It feels like an amazing process for students,” said Ellison High School junior Tiani Siuai Ahsang. “It’s the next step for our future.”

    Ahsang said she developed an interest in healthcare as a third-grader. “It will be fun. This is like a new family.”

    Harker Heights High School junior Raven Stidom said she entered TBI to get early experience in the medical field in hopes of becoming a neurologist.

    “It’s a great opportunity to reach beyond our limits,” she said. “I expect a rigorous course at the college level. I’m slightly nervous, but excited.”

    Steve White, a Harker Heights High School junior said he was ready to get to work.

    White said he has a sibling born with a disease and that the idea of infants entering the world with medical inequalities drove him to an interest in genetics.

    “This program is held in high esteem,” he said of TBI. “I think we still get a childhood, though it’s a busy one.”

    Aware of the challenges ahead, White said he was ready to learn. “I’m not nervous. I’m excited to be with like-minded students and I want to work.”

    Dr. Alejandro Arroliga, chairman of the Scott & White Clinic Board of Directors and a member of the Temple College Board of Trustees welcomed the students “into the tent” of healthcare education.

    “I’m so excited you chose this rewarding pathway,” he told the students just before they received their white coats.

    The physician and professor described to students a broad career field filled with opportunity to apply intellectual learning to heal and comfort.

    From a practical standpoint, Arroliga said 1 in 4 new jobs in the United States in the next 10 years would be in the healthcare realm.

    More importantly, he said, is the opportunity to provide comfort to people in desperate need. He compared the mission of physicians, nurses, therapists and researchers to educators and religious leaders.

    “You will have the opportunity to serve people,” he said, “to provide comfort when it is needed the most.”

    A specialist in critical care medicine and lung diseases, Arroliga told students the medical field depends on teams of highly skilled, committed people.

    That sort of teamwork, he said, would also characterize the long healthcare education pathway, with students leaning on teachers, parents and peers along the way.

    August 10, 2017

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