FORT SMITH, Ark. – With the addition of brand-new medical classrooms at Baptist Health Medical Plaza-Fort Smith and Mercy Hospital Fort Smith, students participating in the Darby Middle School Health Sciences Academy (HSA) program get to experience learning in a real-world medical environment. The HSA learning experience is exclusively available to students in the Fort Smith Public School district.
Seventh-grade students attend classes at Baptist Health Medical Plaza-Fort Smith, while eighth-grade students attend classes at the Mercy Hospital Fort Smith classroom. Students attend the hospital classrooms for a half day, Monday-Friday. While at the hospital, the students receive first-hand exposure to various medical careers while touring different parts of the hospital and observing clinical rotations.
Darby Middle School Principal Jason Meharg explained that while in the new classroom setting, students witness real medical training at a level of rigor that prepares them for careers and higher education opportunities. “The HSA program is an incredible program at Darby that provides FSPS students with the unique opportunity to explore career pathways in the medical field. The exposure that students gain by being in the hospitals is an invaluable experience unparalleled in any other middle school in Arkansas.”
Area hospital administrators agree. “When it comes to health care education, nothing beats hands-on learning,” said Ryan Gehrig, president of Mercy Hospitals Arkansas. “These students have been given a wonderful opportunity to explore so much about healthcare, and we hope these classes pique a lifelong curiosity in them. We appreciate Fort Smith Public Schools for creating this academy and look forward to working with these students throughout the school year.”
Medical specialists will visit the new classrooms, answer questions, and provide an immersive education that extends beyond the textbooks. This partnership between Fort Smith Public Schools and two local hospitals is exclusively available to public school students and is the first program of its kind in Arkansas.
“Recruiting the next generation of skilled healthcare providers is always a focus for us,” said Jeff Carrier, region president, Baptist Health. “So partnering with our public schools to engage students at a young age and get them passionate about all of the careers available to them in the medical field was a win-win. We are thankful Fort Smith Public Schools is providing such an amazing experience for our kids.”
Learn more about the Health Sciences Academy.