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Health Professions Academy: Empowering Future Health Care Leaders

Health Professions Academy students touring the Athletic Training facilities


The Health Professions Academy (HPA), established in the early 2000s, has evolved into a beacon of excellence in health care education. Initially conceived as a monthly Saturday program, HPA has recently expanded, leaving an impactful mark on students and the educational community.

Founding Vision and Growth

At its inception, Jesse M. Soriano, director of Health Sciences Ethnic Minority Affairs (now University of Utah Health Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion), envisioned HPA as a pathway program for 6th through 12th grade students. By 2007, East High School became the designated magnet school for HPA, with Terese Cracroft, RN, assuming leadership. Cracroft’s unwavering dedication laid the groundwork for HPA’s success with dozens of alumni. Following Cracroft’s retirement in 2022, Debbie Gorder assumed HPA leadership at East High School. Under her guidance, the academy continues to thrive, providing students with unparalleled opportunities within the HPA framework.

This year, the Health Professions Academy achieved a remarkable milestone—a 100% expansion with the inclusion of West High School. Facilitated by Garth McFarland, HPA welcomed six students in its inaugural year. This strategic move aims to further diversify the student body and enhance the educational landscape. The Health Professions Academy’s continuous expansion ensures that future health professionals—regardless of their backgrounds—can benefit from its enriching experiences.

A Glimpse into the HPA Experience

The Health Professions Academy curriculum is a dynamic blend of classroom learning and real-world exposure—plus an opportunity to apply for concurrent enrollment with the University of Utah. Notably, University of Utah Health Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion covered the credit fees for this past semester’s students. As a result, every student excelled, earning an average grade of A and valuable college credit.

Through curated interactions with health care professionals, HPA students gain invaluable insights into various health science fields. A sign-up list circulates across the University of Utah Health campus, inviting health professionals to reserve slots for presenting their specialties to eager students. During these sessions, our students immerse themselves in an hour of informative dialogue with experts from various departments and specialties.

Over the course of a semester, HPA students make approximately 24 visits to the University of Utah Health campus. From nursing to pathology, occupational therapy to dental care, each presentation offers a unique perspective to inspire career aspirations and foster connections between budding health care professionals and seasoned practitioners. Topics of some recent HPA presentations can be found on the Health Professions Academy page.

From its humble beginnings to its recent expansion, the Health Professions Academy has continually evolved to provide unparalleled opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds. As discussions unfold for further expansion, including the potential inclusion of the Salt Lake Center for Science Education, the continued success and impact of the Health Professions Academy serve as an inspiring example of what can be achieved when passion and purpose align in service of education and community.

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Loretta Müller

Feb 23, 2024 12:11 PM