TYLER, Texas (KETK) — 12 different campuses that included 320 high school students and teachers got the chance to see healthcare fields firsthand at The University of Texas at Tyler on Wednesday.

“The students get to come here and learn that there are so many healthcare positions, and they get to learn about the ones they’re interested in, and a lot of times they learn about ones that they’ve never even thought about,” said Marti Halbrook, assistant director, Academy of Future Health Professionals, UT Tyler.

The conference was also an opportunity for students to ask industry professionals questions.

“Explaining just different avenues that you can have in medicine, specifically that we offer and just the different pathways to get there in what we do, just to open up to see the different opportunities that can be offered,” said Jessica Erbaugh, Air 1 flight nurse, UT Health East Texas.

Erbaugh said just because you choose one career path doesn’t mean you have to stay there. She started as a first responder and now she’s on the Air 1 crew.

“It opens you up to a lot of different areas and you can start in one area, stay in that area, and progress and work up in the system,” said Erbaugh. 

The conference had two main goals. Get students interested in the medical and healthcare field, and to help with the ongoing employee shortage.

“From an industry standpoint, just because the EMS industry has had such a shortage over the last couple of years, especially since COVID happened, it gives us an opportunity to kind of reach out to these students before they ever even get out of high school,” said Michael Lawyer, air operations director, UT Health East Texas.

It is part of the work of The Academy of Future Health Professionals. Making sure you know you don’t have to wait until graduation to get involved.

“They need to go shadow every feel that they can think of that they’re interested in because it’s very important to know what you don’t want to do as much as what you want to do,” said Halbrook.

This ongoing effort is a part of the Academy of Future Health professionals that allows students to get involved before graduating.

“They can get certifications in a lot of different fields and start working in those and start earning money while they go to college,” said Halbrook.