Special to The Dallas Examiner

In an effort to combat the nationwide shortage of health care professionals, Parkland Health and Hospital System through its Parkland Academy is committed to a partnership with local school systems in order to expose young people to various health care careers. Through various internship programs, students gain practical experience to complement the academic training received during the school year.

In 1993, Sen. Royce West established the Dr. Emmett J. Conrad Leadership Program, an internship program through a partnership with Paul Quinn College and the Texas Veterans Land Board to assist the college’s students in gaining employment experience. The program is named in honor of the renowned Dallas African American physician and education advocate.

The knowledge obtained at Parkland as part of the program paved the way for full-time employment at the hospital system for Tiffany Haley.

“My experience as a hospital operations intern was far beyond my initial expectations. I was never treated like an ‘intern,’” said Haley, now a Career Development Program Coordinator in Parkland’s Office of Talent Management. “I had the privilege of working alongside hospital administrators on several initiatives, shadowed department leaders and gained professional mentors during my internship.”

Haley was also afforded the opportunity to coordinate Parkland’s monthly “Lunch and Learn” sessions for hospital staff and along the way honed her project planning and implementation skills, something that has come in handy in her new role.

Fallon Wallace, who is completing an Administrative Residency program, has been witness to history-making changes in the two years she’s been at the hospital system. By far the biggest change was the move from the 1950s era building to the new state-of-the-art hospital in August 2015.

“Although the move to the new hospital was a huge project and involved almost every area, that was just a small portion of the experience I’ve gained over the past two years,” Wallace said.

Her residency has included gleaning knowledge from nursing, compliance, regulatory, finance, government and community relations, hospital administration and even Parkland’s Board of Managers. Having completed her master’s degree in health care management as well as her MBA, Wallace hopes to pursue a career in population health.

For those still enrolled in school, the Collegiate Fellows program sponsored by the Parkland Auxiliary gives students an opportunity to work 40 hours a week during the summer in a department that closely matches their area of interest.

For Robert Behrens, senior public relations specialist at Parkland, that meant gaining insight into the health care industry as well as developing career skills that he uses daily.

“I came to Parkland in 2005, working in the Corporate Communications department as a Collegiate Fellow while I completed my journalism degree. While I gained valuable experience in my career field, the program also gave me the opportunity to speak to healthcare experts and tour areas throughout the Parkland system,” Behrens said.

The Parkland Academy also partners with groups such as the Mayor’s Intern Fellows Program to provide opportunities for Dallas-area high school students. Designed in 2007 by Education is Freedom, the Mayor’s Program is an eight-week, paid summer internship that introduces Dallas public high school students to careers and employment opportunities in industries and companies where they have expressed interest.

“We want to make sure that every intern has a meaningful experience while they’re at Parkland. That’s why we set SMART goals with projects and programs that will benefit both the student and Parkland,” said Kathi Hakes, manager of Parkland’s education programs. “The students have taken on some very innovative projects which, in some cases, led to changes in how we do business.”

Past projects have included changing the way Parkland does exit surveys with employees who are leaving the system and revamping the 911 contact database used in the North Texas Poison Center at Parkland.

“We had one student who expressed an interest in Pastoral Care and for their internship was partnered with Parkland’s chaplains. That student is now pursuing a career in the spiritual field,” Hakes said, noting that other students are preparing for careers as physicians, nurses and pharmacists.

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