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(Columbia) – If you’re looking for work, look to the growing healthcare sector. But there’s a problem. There aren’t enough students in the healthcare pipeline to meet future demand.

The University of Missouri, with funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, has been giving high school students advice, counseling and hands-on experience in what it takes to succeed in medical sciences and health professions careers.

The next part of this project, a five-day Maps in Medicine Summer Academy, will occur July 22-26 on the Mizzou campus. Here, students from across Missouri will partner with medical and graduate students, physicians and healthcare technicians to practice solving science and medical problems. The students will also get insight into test-taking skills, preparation for college entrance exams and scholarship opportunities. It is projected this training will stimulate students’ interest in science careers and better prepare them for their studies.

The academy is directed by William Folk, professor of Biochemistry and Susan Ailor, professor of Dermatology in the MU School of Medicine. Folk’s team is working with Normandy, Parkway and Marquette schools in St. Louis; Columbia, Jefferson City, St. Clair and Jamestown schools in central Missouri, and the North Kansas City School District, Blue Springs, Kearney, Shawnee Mission and others in western Missouri.

Participating students not only see what is going on at MU, but also have the opportunity to talk with representatives from other colleges including Westminster College, Truman State, the University of Missouri at St. Louis, Missouri Valley College, and Southeastern Missouri State, among others.

The program is aimed at students who will be first-generation college students or those who are under-represented in the healthcare workforce.

“We are looking for self-starters, energetic people who are keen to get ahead in a weak job market,” Folk said. “We’re looking for students who are in the early stages of deciding what they plan to do with their careers.”

This year’s Summer Academy will focus on the science of stem cells, cancer and tissue regeneration. Participants will study these subjects in classes and work in labs to see techniques on how tissues are healed, and will participate in activities that give them insight into how people cope with a chronic medical conditions for which biomedical advances in tissue regeneration science provide promise.

Funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute is ending this year. Folk is looking for new sponsors.

Folk also directs the Show Me In-A-Box program funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health, intended to assist middle school teachers to promote science and healthcare professions.

Demand for health care, and thus the need for more health care workers, is expected to keep growing. The aging of the U.S. population is expected to drive the demand. In fact, health care is expected to supplant the retail industry to become the top source of jobs in the U.S. within two years.

By 2020, there will be 5.6 million new health care jobs, according to a report published by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce.

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