Feature Story

Baxter’s Science@Work Program Helps Launch Chicago’s First Health Science Career Academy to Prepare Latinos for Healthcare Careers

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Chicago's first charter health science career academy - the Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy (IHSCA) - broke ground on February 18, 2011 to build its new, state-of-the-art facility that will provide up to 600 mostly Latino students with an unprecedented opportunity to receive a college-preparatory math and science education that will enable them to enter healthcare careers.

With start-up funding and hands-on support provided by several partners including Baxter, the Renaissance Schools Fund and the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council, the Instituto Health Science Career Academy launched  the school in September 2010 with 180 ninth grade students. The new facility will be complete in late 2011.

The school will help to address the shortage of Latinos in the healthcare field and to support Chicago's efforts to provide high-quality education options.  Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing minority population in the United States1, however, they are underrepresented in healthcare careers, with 3 percent of nurses, 3.4 percent of pharmacists, 3.8 percent of physicians and 5.3 percent of physician assistants of Latino descent2.  IHSCA fully integrates the health sciences into all core subjects to help create the next generation of doctors, nurses, scientists, technicians and healthcare professionals.

"The Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy was founded by the Instituto del Progreso Latino, a community-based organization driven by the belief that education is power," said Juan Salgado, president and chief executive officer, Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy.  "This core belief fuels our mission and our commitment to provide workforce development opportunities to Latino families in Chicago.  The energy, enthusiasm and support that Baxter provides is critical to the success of the school." 

Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn joined with Illinois State Senator Tony Munoz, State Representative Edward Acevedo, U. S. Senator Dick Durbin and Baxter Senior Researcher Francisco Rausa, Ph.D., to break ground on the $22 million project, which will transform a former furniture warehouse in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood into a 100,000 square-foot educational center. The renovation and expansion project expects to receive Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) Silver Certification.

The school provides students with a rigorous college prep curriculum for success in competitive colleges and universities, and offers the opportunity for students to earn professional certification for high-wage entry-level positions in the healthcare field. It also offers job shadowing and internship programs in an effort to prepare students for success. To encourage interactive learning, the new building will house nine laboratories outfitted for varying science experiments. Baxter scientists, researchers and other employee volunteers lecture, sponsor lab tours and provide valuable career advice to students throughout the year.

The school is the third to receive Baxter's support as part of the  Science@Work: Expanding Minds with Real-World Science program, a multi-year partnership with the Chicago Public Schools to support teacher training and student development in healthcare and biotechnology.

As a charter school, IHSCA is held directly accountable to its local school board and the State of Illinois for maintaining high academic standards, and is structured to deliver strong results. For example, compared with average Chicago Public Schools, the IHSCA school day is 80 minutes longer and the school year is 17 days longer. Credits required for graduation are 33 percent higher for IHSCA compared with State of Illinois requirements, and IHSCA requires five credits in science and seven credits in math and problem solving, which is 100 percent higher than the State of Illinois requirements.

"As part of IHSCA, I see firsthand the impact the school is making, not only with the students but with their families and the larger Latino community," said Francisco Rausa, IHSCA board member and Baxter Senior Manager of R&D. "IHSCA has a saying, 'We Register the Student and Enroll the Family.' I am proud that Baxter is such a strong supporter of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and in particular of the first CPS charter school focused on healthcare."

1. According to projections from the Pew Research Center.
2. According to the 2000 U.S. Census and the Health Resources & Services Administration.