SITKA  – Recently, SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) welcomed seventeen Alaska Native/American Indian high school students to learn about health careers. The students participated in the 2018 Ethel Lund Village Health Occupations Program (VHOP) that took place from April 23 – 26 in Sitka.

Each year, the Southeast-area Native students selected by SEARHC for VHOP spend nearly a week at the SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital learning about different health careers and educational opportunities in healthcare. This year’s group was among the largest and represented Angoon, Aniak, Barrow, Fort Yukon, Klawock, Kotlik, Hoonah, Juneau, Newhalen, Savoonga, St. Paul Island, and Tyonek. 

The students’ chaperones for the week were guides from SEARHC’s Alaska Crossings program and chosen specifically for their unique training to work with young people.

VHOP 2018 students

Activities began with a cultural orientation, campus tour, and a hospital safety presentation. Highlights of the week included lunch with SEARHC’s Chief Operating Officer, and Interim MEH Hospital Administrator, an overnight trip to Biorka Island that included leadership and communication training, and a particularly special meeting with SEARHC and VHOP founder, Ethel Lund at the Alaska Pioneers Home in Sitka.

Students also heard a presentation from SEARHC Behavioral Health, spent time with SEARHC nurses stations, learned about vital non-medical roles, as well as spent time with SEARHC Dental staff and various SEARHC Health Educators. They also each gave a presentation at a luncheon with SEARHC’s Board of Directors.

VHOP participant Stormy Simeon from Juneau said, “The VHOP program was an amazing opportunity to learn about the medical field. I loved all the presentations, and I learned so much about different health careers and widened my perspective of the healthcare field.”  

Professional opportunities in healthcare are growing at a rapid pace. Health-related jobs offer rewarding careers with excellent compensation and benefits, as well as job stability. The goal of VHOP is to cultivate and encourage an interest in healthcare, and hopefully, become inspired to seek a future in the field. 

Desiree Jamestown, a VHOP participant from Angoon, demonstrated that inspiration when she said, “Thanks for making this an amazing experience for me. I had a great time, and I really want to be a nurse and work in Sitka when I am older.”

For more information about VHOP and how students can enroll in next year’s program, parents and students can visit searhc.org/careers/education-training.