New Durham school trains high schoolers in health care

Durham's City of Medicine Academy offers high schoolers training in health care

Staff WriterAugust 19, 2011 

  • Sophomore year: Students participate in clinic rotations as an extension of their classroom training.

    Junior year: Students observe and assist in the daily work of medical professionals .

    Senior year: Students spend the majority of their day in the medical/health care environment, and take college-level courses to advance their knowledge and prepare for post-secondary opportunities.

— The three-story building with the long windows alongside Durham Regional Hospital looks like a place one could get a doctor's check-up, and that's kind of the point.

The Durham Public Schools' new City of Medicine Academy building is designed to give students the experience of working in the health care and science industries.

About 100 people attended the dedication Thursday of the $8.7 million building at 301 Crutchfield St. It features health care and science laboratories and classrooms where students can get hands-on training.

Students, who started Aug. 4 are finishing their second week of classes. Enrollment has continued to grow since the program became a high school in 2008. This year the school has about 350 students - up from 200.

The academy previously operated out of the old Verizon building on Roxboro Road; before that it was in a sectioned-off hallway at Southern High School.

"It was very crowded, very difficult to maneuver around," said Alexis Richardson, 17, a senior. "So it's nice, all this space."

The school will become a leader in helping high schools in Durham and around the state create a more effective science and math curriculum with a problem-solving, collaborative approach, Principal Elizabeth Shearer said.

Students take standard high school classes as well as medical-based electives, and advanced and accelerated courses in math and science.

"The CMA Academy is a beacon of hope for this community," said Minnie Forte-Brown, chairwoman of the Durham Public Schools Board of Education. "We believe our City of Medicine Academy is indeed a game changer."

Students are selected to attend the academy and all other Durham Public magnet schools by a lottery system. Academy candidates must fill out an application, submit recommendations from teachers, and write essays on their career interests, a current health issue in Durham, and how they could contribute to the school.

Freshmen and sophomores can participate in career-exploration field trips, and the school offers clinical training and a paid internship program for upper classmen.

All students will receive MacBooks in the spring, with health and science applications, for their homework.

Student uniforms are tennis shoes and scrubs. Different colors designate the grade levels. The mascot, similarly to the traditional symbol for medicine, is the cobra.

Richardson plans to attend college in the fall, then medical school to become a pediatric neurosurgeon.

Being an academy student allowed her to explore different options.

"It opened my eyes up; I just saw different things," Richardson said. "You just get a real view of the medical field. It's really cool, and it's a great opportunity for people who want to be in the medical field."

katelyn.ferral@newsobserver.com or 919-932-8746

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