(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — Making health care careers an exciting and rewarding opportunity for students in the Greater Coastal Bend was the focus of the fourth annual “Future Health Care Professionals Conference” on Jan. 25 at the Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi campus.

Approximately 385 junior high and high school students, faculty sponsors and invited guests attended the conference, sponsored by the Texas A&M Health Science Center-Coastal Bend Health Education Center. The students were guided through a “state-of-the-art” Nursing Clinical Laboratory at TAMUCC, the Driscoll Children’s Hospital Transport Ambulance and the Health Education Rural Outreach Mobile Clinic, which will be in Falfurrias to provide dental sealants for families needing dental care.

Representatives from Del Mar College, TAMUCC, Work-Force1, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, Driscoll Children’s Hospital, CHRISTUS Spohn Healthcare System and the Corpus Christi Medical Center offered “goodie bags” and relevant information for the students and the faculty sponsors.

The need for health care providers is significant. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2010, 5.3 million health care workers will be needed to provide services throughout the country.

“People are living longer and will develop chronic and age-related diseases, the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation will be reaching retirement age, and aging will affect the healthcare workforce with retiring workers,” said Lois Koester, R.N., B.S.N., M.P.A., program coordinator for the Healthcare Careers Program at the Coastal Bend Health Education Center. “We will look to our junior high and high school students today to be prepared to be the health care professionals in the future.”

“The Future of Technology in Health Care and the Role of the Caring Professional” was the focus of keynote speaker Mary D. Peterson, M.D., M.H.A. She is medical director of the Driscoll Children’s Health Plan and associate professor of anesthesiology at the University of Texas-San Antonio Health Science Center and University of Texas Medical Branch.

In showing robots doing complex surgeries in places such as Iraq by virtual computerized technology, Dr. Peterson explained that developing technology would replace some repetitive functions of the care process. But, she emphasized the importance of compassionate care and the human connection in the healing and well-being of those who are in need.

Students from Corpus Christi and other school districts in the counties served by the Texas A&M Health Science Center are all members of the Future Nurses Clubs, Health Care Careers Clubs and Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) programs.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its five components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology and the School of Rural Public Health.

— Marketing & Communications