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Monday, February 22, 2010, 2:45 am

Empire expands phlebotomy program

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    Dominican pairing students with Kaiser family practice doctors

    Dominican students and their mentors

    Dominican students and their mentors

    NORTH BAY – North Bay colleges are collaborating with area hospitals on expanded or new programs from phlebotomy to preparing students for careers as family practice doctors.

    Empire College in Santa Rosa has expanded its phlebotomy program and will be offering students the opportunity to work with Memorial and Petaluma Valley hospitals in addition to Kaiser Permanente.

    Meanwhile, Dominican University in San Rafael started a mentoring program last year for freshmen and sophomores who were interested in pursuing careers as family practice physicians.

    Vickie Savino, Empire’s director of education, said the school got approval to work with the two St. Joseph Health System-owned facilities in January.

    The program with Memorial will start in April, she said. They do not have a definitive date for Petaluma Valley.

    Jon Johnson is the phlebotomy supervisor at Memorial and, according to Ms. Savino, will be an instructor at Empire in that department.

    “We are here to help the community,” she said. “We want to reach out to other facilities … before too long.”

    Leslie Xayasomlot is a 22-year-old student who went through the medical assisting program. She did an externship with Dr. Jennifer Hubert.

    “I roomed the patients and did vitals, injections and fixed the rooms,” she said.

    It gave her the opportunity to see what medical assisting was all about, she said. She decided to enter the phlebotomy program.

    “I like phlebotomy much better than medical assisting. It is more hands on and more of what I want.”

    She said her goal is to get a job with Kaiser as a phlebotomist.

    “When I was little, I planned on doing an RN program,” she said. “I thought I would try medical assisting, and it has gotten me to this.”

    She said she came from a low-income family and had to pay for everything herself.

    “I liked Empire because I had to do something quick and fast. I took classes at night.”

    She appreciated the hands-on help the school gave her and the opportunities with the externship programs as they helped her see what she wanted to focus on.

    Empire College phlebotomy program student Megan Van Rees in 2008

    Empire College phlebotomy program student Megan Van Rees in 2008

    Ms. Savino said there are 250 students involved in both the degree and non-degree programs at Empire. The majority, she said, are in back-office operations, though there are some in the front office capacity.

    After getting a diploma, she said, students can sit for the California Medical Assisting Certificate.

    “It is not necessary, but in this market we want our students to have as many tools to separate them from the other applicants out there.”

    The Kaiser-funded program at Dominican has 12 students partnered with 12 doctors. The students shadow the doctors and meet with them to talk about what being a family practice physician entails.

    Chris Grant, senior vice president at Kaiser Permanente in corporate development and venture investments, said this way students can see early what a day in the life of a physician is like. Typically it is not until a student has gotten a residency that they really see from the floor what being a doctor entails.

    It was not hard to get the physicians involved, he said.

    “We have a lot of physicians with a passion for education and mentoring,” he said. “It gives them an opportunity to share their passion and to remind themselves why they became a doctor.”

    Dr. Sibdas Ghosh, associate dean for academic development at the School of Health at Dominican, was instrumental in getting the program together.

    The Kaiser Permanente program was designed to “educate and excite” students going into family practice.

    Dr. Ghosh said that these days most medical students end up as specialists.

    “With this program, these students really get the opportunity to see what life is like as a doctor.”

    Pat Kendall, medical group administrator for Kaiser Permanente’s San Rafael Medical Center, purchased and presented Dominican students with their own laboratory coats.

    Dr. Ghosh said that while the program is a success and they will do it again, in the fall the students will likely be sophomores and juniors. The students will be presented with certificates at the end of the program.

    He said this will be an asset to the students when applying for medical school.

    “Schools are not just looking for GPA and MCAT scores,” he said. “They will know that these applicants have seen the profession and want it.”

    One of the reasons Kaiser was so keen to work with Dominican is the student population reflects the population of the community Kaiser serves.

    “The diversity of Dominican students closely aligns with the communities Kaiser Permanente serves, and the university’s focus on character development and social responsibility fits well with our organizational values and mission,” said Mr. Grant.

    Applications will be accepted beginning in April for students who want to participate in the fall.

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