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Home » Uncategorized » Academy preps teens for successful health care careers

Academy preps teens for successful health care careers


Monday, July 22, 2019; Silver City, NM: The Teen Academy of Health Sciences (TAHS) had its largest graduating class to-date with 33 students from southwest New Mexico bypassing part of their summer vacation to jumpstart their future health care careers.

WNMU Natural Science Department Chair Dr. Jeffery Hill explains the brain structure to TAHS participants during a lab.

“We learned more in the 3 weeks of the Academy than in a normal year-long science class,” said Cobre High Sophomore Sandra Villalobos, who plans to pursue a career as pediatric surgeon.

TAHS is hosted at Western New Mexico University (WNMU) included science labs, tours of regional health care facilities, preparation for American College Testing (ACT) and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification for high school students, according to Anna Daggett program specialist for the Frontier and Rural Workforce Development of New Mexico (FORWARD NM) which coordinates the academy.

The Academy was available to participants at no cost thanks to the generous support of WNMU, the Grant County Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, the Silver City Food Co-op and PNM.

Cliff High School Sophomore Ozozi Odocha attended the academy because, “I wanted to have better opportunities for my perspective career in health care.” Odocha stated she “wants to help people fight cancer”. Through the course of the academy, she reportedly gained six points on her ACT score which will solidify her dream of attending an Ivy League university.

The average academy participant saw their ACT score increase by 13 percent, according to Baudelia “Bala” Salgado director of the FORWARD New Mexico (FNM) Area Health Education Center (AHEC). 

Salgado explains, “This year saw a smaller overall gain in ACT scores, because our academy students scored very high on the initial baseline test. We had one student score a perfect 36! Their initial high scores speak to the deep commitment our academy participants have to their future careers in health care. These are students who learn and learn well!”

TAHS Instructor Nathan Nolan echoed Salgado’s praise of the students, “These students had 57 hours of teaching at the academy, that’s one-third a school year, and they did three times the work as a regular science class.” 

Reserve High School’s Cade Livingston enjoyed the different approach to learning the academy offered, “The hands-on experience with Mr. Nolan was so different from the regular classroom.” Livingston also found the sheep’s heart dissection lab with WNMU’s Dr. Jeffrey Hill offered more insight than his previous anatomy and physiology class.

TAHS participants qualified for dual enrollment credits from WNMU, which New Mexico requires for all high school students to qualify for graduation.

Cobre High Senior Teresa Medina said TAHS was “a great opportunity for getting further in life in a shorter amount of time.” Medina plans pursue a degree as a doctor and hopes to specialize in cardiology.

Medina was awarded one of two scholarships to WNMU for her outstanding participation in the academy by Luis Figueroa, Student Service Specialist at WNMU’s Office of Admissions. Livingston received the other WNMU scholarship which covered tuition and housing at the university.

Teen Academy for Health Sciences 2019

Nolan recognized two academy students for outstanding leadership, which he characterizes as leading by example, “These students came in every day and quietly did as they should, that is the true nature of leadership.” 

Odocha and Aldo Leopold Charter School Senior Jessilyn Hobby received the outstanding leadership awards.  

Hobby said of her academy experience, “I was able to learn more about the health care industry and be around like-minded students with the same goals as I have.” Hobby is interested in a career as a pediatric surgeon or in trauma care.

TAHS is part of the state-wide effort to support youth to successfully enter and succeed in health care and fill the gaps in the health care industry New Mexico has. The state has the oldest doctors’ population in the nation, with over one-third of practicing physicians over the age of 65, according to a Merritt Hawkins’ physician surveys.

Also, New Mexico ranks ninth in the nation for doctor shortages in this year’s Senior List report that focuses on future doctor shortfalls by state. Today’s academy graduates could be tomorrow’s doctors, nurses, counselors, radiologists and surgeons. Studies have shown that rural students who receive degrees in health care fields tend to serve rural communities during their careers.

Hopefully, the TAHS graduates will be successful in their career goals, and in the future return to serve their communities as health care professionals

For more information on TAHS contact Salgado at (575) 597-0030 or email: