Alabama Students on Road to Success with Roadmap Developed at WVU


Contact: Bethany Hornbeck
President & CEO
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Alabama Students on Road to Success with Roadmap Developed at WVU
June 16, 2022, Morgantown, WV -- The future of healthcare shines brighter in Alabama this week when underrepresented students begin benefitting from an innovative program to prepare them for college — and a rewarding career in nursing and other biomedical fields.  

With 34 incoming high school freshmen from Alabama’s Hale and Pickens counties set to begin the four-year program, The University of Alabama (UA) will become the second state university system to empower students by fully implementing a proven high school mentoring program first developed at West Virginia University (WVU). Led by UA’s Capstone College of Nursing and funded by the National Institute of Health’s Science Education Partnership Award Program (SEPA), the Health Sciences & Technology Academy – Alabama (HSTA-AL) will build an academic pipeline for underrepresented students to the field of nursing. The effort is expected to reap major benefits, not just for participating students, but also for the health and wellbeing of their hometown communities.
West Virginia’s Health Sciences & Technology Academy (WV HSTA) has already resulted in
unprecedented real-world returns by providing more than 3,000 young students with tools to build a better life for themselves and their families. Results across a quarter century have been impressive, with participating students far more likely to attend and graduate from college than their peers in healthcare and other STEM fields.
WV HSTA’s impacts extend beyond educational empowerment too. HSTA students are far more likely to become healthcare professionals who continue living and working in their home state after graduation, which improves health and wellness access for all citizens.

Similar success is expected from HSTA-AL. “We are thrilled to see the early success HSTA-AL has achieved in recruiting their very first cohort of HSTA-AL students, launching their summer camp program, and building support in Hale and Pickens counties for this wonderful program,” said Apis Creative president Bethany Hornbeck. “We are honored to support HSTA-AL with the leadership coaching and staff training we provide to universities that wish to launch HSTA programs in their communities.”

HSTA-AL skills lead to academic success
HSTA-AL is kicking off this week as the first round of selected students attend a residential HSTA-AL summer camp where they are exploring health-related topics, learning about nursing and other healthcare career opportunities, and gaining skills that prepare them to conduct community-based research projects. The camp is being held at The University of Alabama at no cost to students.

Once the 2022-2023 academic year begins, participating students are required to attend HSTA-AL after-school science clubs, which will continue preparing them for academic success. For example, through their after-school club, each student will complete a science-based community research project that culminates in a presentation of their findings to healthcare professionals, program peers, and their communities.  

Can HSTA-AL deliver the health personnel Alabama needs?
The American Hospital Association (AHA) reports that “hospitals and health systems face mounting and critical staffing shortages.” In fact, job vacancies are increasing, with available personnel expected to fall short by as many as 3.2 million health care workers by 2026. These jobs require formal education and can be difficult to fill, even though healthcare is a top employer in Alabama. 

One way to address this shortfall — and improve healthcare for underserved citizens — is to better support entry into medical fields by underrepresented populations. Compared to four decades ago, the United States has made progress in increasing diversity among medical school enrollments and graduates. Today, more women apply to medical school than men, for example. However, the opportunity gap between races remains a critical issue, as do shortfalls in rural care.  HSTA-AL can help close these gaps while boosting healthcare access for all Alabamians.  

HSTA rekindles the American Dream
HSTA began as a pilot program at WVU in 1994 and has received substantial funding from SEPA since 1997 with support from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. The new Alabama pilot is funded by a 5-year $1.2 million SEPA grant, which includes subawards to Apis Creative’s HSTA Hatch division for leadership training and to the WVU Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources for program evaluation.

Pilot funding supports up to 50 Alabama students from two counties across five years (2021-2026). If
HSTA-AL can replicate the success seen in West Virginia, the program could potentially expand throughout Alabama and reach another 3,000 underrepresented students. Given HSTA’s track record, this will mean lasting positive educational, health, and financial impacts across the state.

HSTA-AL is supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under SEPA Award Number R25GM142027. The content of this press release is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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