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Innovation Lab Launches ‘Mini Med School’

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Sonora, CA — Tuolumne County’s Innovation Lab in Sonora has partnered up to pioneer a virtual medical school with the goal of improving public health education through educational programs and developing career paths.

According to the Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority (TCEDA), the new 501-c-3 nonprofit endeavor, HealthLitNow Mini Med School™ (HLNMMS), has just been launched through TCEDA partner Innovation Lab (IL) to develop the public health literacy of students throughout the Sierra region.

TCEDA/IL Board Member Barry Hillman, the former head of Condor Earth Technologies, has been named as president of the new nonprofit. Local government, public K-12 schools and businesses, along with the Sonora Regional Medical Center, Tuolumne Me-Wuk Indian Health Center, Columbia Community College, and UC-Merced Blum Center are listed among its partnering and supporting agencies.

Recently retired Tuolumne County Chief Health Officer Dr. Todd Stolp is resurfacing in a new local role as the group’s Vice-president and TCEDA head Larry Cope will serve as managing director. Other board members include educator-entrepreneur and KleenSlate Concepts founder Julia Rhodes; attorney and TCEDA board member Jim Gianelli; UC-Merced Blum Center′s Dr. Steve Roussos is interim executive director. The organizational offices are located, along with those of IL, on the third floor of the former Tuolumne General Hospital (101 Hospital Road, Sonora).

Among its initial projects, HLNMMS received a grant from OSHPOD (Office of Statewide Planning and Development) to implement a series of health career workshops throughout the schools. Hillman shares, ″We’ve been working with a broad cross-section of community participants…to design workshops that will begin for seventh to ninth graders to introduce them to the opportunities for careers in health care beginning in the next school year.″ He adds, ″Most people don’t realize, but the largest industry employer in Tuolumne County, and in fact, all the surrounding Sierra communities…is the health care industry – by far, the largest – and it’s also the area that is projected to grow the greatest between now and 2022.″

He adds, ″We often hear that we have an aging population here, on the one hand, and younger people are leaving the community as a result of the inability to find employment. We are hoping we can help solve this apparent dichotomy by introducing kids, while they are still in school, to the opportunities that are available in health care, to enable them to take the  coursework and prepare for a career in healthcare.″

Hillman further explains that, along with incorporating a career path channel to health care industry jobs, HLNMMS program development areas will focus on creative projects such as robotic medical equipment being developed with UC-Merced and helping develop learning opportunities in alignment with State Common Core and federal educational next generation science standards that will include human biology and physiology as a component. Another focus area, which will help teach students how to engage medical help, use insurance and maintain their own medical records, is now being piloted in the schools through a leading edge program in partnership with the Delaware-based Nemours nonprofit children′s health organization.