Pipeline and Recruiting Activities



The Robert C Byrd Center for Rural Health (CRH) has worked in several southern and southwestern counties in West Virginia for the past twelve years with rural, minority and underserved students to raise awareness of health care careers, to remove barriers to pursuing these careers, and to help prepare students for the rigors of medical education. For the last academic year, the CRH hosted or participated in:

  • • 69 events with high school students, with over 2800 students participating
  • Students represented over 30 high schools in 15 primarily rural counties in West Virginia
  • Multiple visits to colleges and universities across the state and in Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia
  • A residential pre-med academy in June 2015

High School Pipeline

During the 2014-2015 academic year, the Center for Rural Health participated in or hosted 69 events in 30 high schools in 15 counties with over 2800 students participating.  (It should be noted that some of these students attended more than one event during the year.) With few exceptions, these students were from rural areas, and/or were minorities, first generation college-going students, or from underserved or high poverty areas. It is also important to note that these pipeline events ranged from very intensive one on one activities, such as suturing workshops with Family Practice residents from the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, to larger events such as speaking to entire classes of juniors and seniors at rural high schools about medicine as a career and college going in general. In certain counties, the pipeline work is ongoing on a monthly basis, where the CRH has formed very active clubs or works with other established organizations. In other counties, the pipeline work may consist of less frequent events or large group activities.

Activities have included:

  • Field trips to the Marshall campus, including the Medical School, the School of Pharmacy, Forensics Crime Scene house, and an educational experience in the Anatomy Lab
  • Science programs in the schools such as the Birds of Prey program
  • Work with the Scanning Electron microscope on Marshall University’s main campus
  • Hands-on activities such as working with medical residents on suturing workshops
  • Speakers in the schools from a variety of health care professions, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, etc.

In addition, CRH staff presented at the statewide West Virginia Science Teacher’s Conference in November 2014 about the pipeline programs. CRH staff also presented on the pipeline and other community programs at the 2015 annual National Rural Health Association Conference in April 2015.

In many cases, and whenever possible, the CRH partners with other organizations in order to reach more students and to maximize the total resources of the partners. For example, the CRH regularly works with:

  •  Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) in the state to reach students from rural areas interested in health care professions.
  • Upward Bound programs at both Marshall University and Concord University to target minority, underserved, economically disadvantaged and first generation college going students.
  • West Virginia Health Sciences and Technology Academy (HSTA), based at West Virginia University, in order to reach minority and underrepresented students who are interested in health care and who are participating in the HSTA four year academic enrichment program.
  • GEAR-UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) program, a federally funded six year program targeting high poverty and at risk students to encourage them to pursue higher education.

During the 2014-2015 academic year, the CRH partnered in 19 collaborative events involving over 500 students with the above organizations.
Many of the high school pipeline activities are designed to remove actual or perceived barriers for rural minority or underserved students who are interested in pursuing medical or health care careers. Financial concerns, first generation college-going and general information about preparation while in high school are addressed by CRH staff, medical students and residents and other health care professionals. Some activities such as suturing workshops and cybermedicine are designed to pique students’ interest in health care careers, and to emphasize the roles that science and math play in these careers. Some activities are meant mainly to raise awareness and increase knowledge about health care careers in general, such as speaking at conferences and at high schools.  In all cases, however, the CRH seeks to reach rural, underserved, minority, and first generation college students to "level the playing field" and help them realistically pursue their goals.

Evaluative measures include annual pre and post-test surveys of participating students, and a formal survey of teachers, counselors and others involved in the pipeline program every other year. Posttesting indicated a 64% increase in health career knowledge this year, and the latest teachers/counselor survey indicated a 100% satisfaction with the program from representatives of the surveyed schools.

Over the course of twelve years, the pipeline program has been recognized with a Governor's Award, and CRH staff members have been invited to speak about the program at the state, regional and national levels.

Colleges and universities

Work with colleges and universities targets pre-med students primarily at the sophomore level and above. CRH staff and Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine faculty regularly travel to colleges and universities to meet with students and program advisors. Assistance is given to small rural colleges for MCAT preparation, providing materials and other resources to improve the students’ chances of successful matriculation into a state medical school. The CRH and the MU JCESOM along with the MU School of Pharmacy hosted a meeting on campus in the fall of 2013 for health career advisors from colleges and universities around the state to impart information on MCAT changes, the PCAT, Marshall’s programs of study and requirements for those programs.

The second annual residential summer academy for premed students from around the state and the region was just completed in June 2014. The academy was created to better prepare students for the rigors of a medical academic study. Students from the first annual premed academy have reported two students accepted into medical school in West Virginia, two accepted into graduate work in biomedical sciences, and almost all of the rest in college still pursuing careers in the health care field. Evaluations from the students involved in the two academies indicate a significant improvement in their readiness to pursue a health care career and a high level of satisfaction with the program. In addition, the CRH has helped create and continues to sponsor a Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) Chapter at Marshall University to give students interested in health care careers a place to meet regularly and explore career options.