Rio Americano High School

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Rio Americano High School

The Mirada

Rio Americano High School

The Mirada

HHS Secretary Becerra, Rep. Bera Discuss Healthcare Worker Shortage, High School Programs at Rio Americano Visit

Xavier Becerra and Ami Bera promoted medical education programs as a solution to the growing shortage
Photo By Liam Nevin
U.S. Rep Ami Bera (left) and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra (right) speak to students in the medical careers facility.

As the nation faces a critical shortage of medical professionals, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and U.S. Rep. Ami Bera met with local educators and students in Rio Americano High School’s medical careers program this morning to hear concerns and promote medical education, especially at the secondary level.

The event, “Training the Next Generation of Health Workers,” welcomed Becerra and Bera, a Democrat whose district includes Rio Americano in Sacramento County. Superintendent Melissa Bassanelli and school board President Pam Costa were also in attendance.

The purpose of the visit was to showcase “how San Juan Unified is leading in developing a healthcare workforce and to discuss the importance of ongoing federal support for similar programs,” San Juan Director of Communications Raj Rai said.

Becerra, a Sacramento native whose wife is a doctor still practicing in the area, called attention to the industry shortage and discussed Biden administration programs to ease the crunch, including supporting career education.

“At HHS we can add some value and worth with you as you try to create that pathway for young Americans to become our future leaders,” Becerra said. “There is no shortage of opportunity, so when you see an opportunity to support a program that is bringing young folks in quickly (to medical careers), you want to be here.”


Facing the shortage

The country will face a shortage of 195,400 nurses by 2031, according to estimates by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Openings for home health aides and personal health aides will increase 37 percent by 2028.

According to projections published last month by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. will face a physician shortage of up to 86,000 doctors by 2036.

Across the country, HHS and hospitals are trying to fill medical residency slots, including at 1,400 federally certified health service clinics.

“More and more, people are finding access through community health clinics,” Becerra said.

The American Rescue Plan, passed in 2021, contained funding for 1,000 additional residency slots.

Over $100 billion in federal funding has been approved under President Joe Biden to grow the healthcare workforce. The administration also wants to subsidize universities to help retain faculty members and increase the salaries of nursing professors so that they don’t leave the classroom for more lucrative hospital jobs. 

Last week, the Biden administration announced additional investments in primary care medical education and more residency programs in rural areas.

Becerra also touted HHS’ scholarship and loan forgiveness programs which help students get through college if they agree to work for a number of years in underserved communities. His son-in-law, now a pediatrician, was given a full four-year scholarship through the initiative.


Starting in high school

However, on the local level the healthcare industry has emphasized high school education to kickstart medical training.

“This is such a great program because we’re exposing you to career pathways in healthcare,” Bera, a doctor, said. “We’re creating a workforce that’s going to take care of me when I’m older. There’s nothing more important than investing in our young people. Our legacy is the next generation, the lives that we touch.”

Principal Cliff Kelly and Mackey promoted the success of the medical program, which boasts a 95% pass rate on the medical assistant board exam and allows students to become certified medical assistants when they graduate high school, often getting MA jobs that pay $25 an hour.

Medical assistants “complete administrative and clinical tasks, such as scheduling appointments and taking patients’ vital signs,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Students also learn to draw blood and give injections. 

Becerra noted the benefit of the well-paying job for students who continue studying medical careers in college.

Seniors in the program spend half their school day at a hospital participating in an externship that culminates in receiving a medical assisting license and college credit.

The importance of the medical program is to “give students hands-on training that will enable them to better transition into college or medical careers,” Kelly said.

Recently, the big four Sacramento health systems came together to identify and highlight such programs, including the medical careers pathway at Rio and health science academies in Natomas and Rancho Cordova. They view career education as a way to fill gaps in hiring medical assistants, nurses, X-ray techs and a variety of other medical professions.

“We invest in our students’ needs in ways that will serve them far beyond graduation,” Bassanelli said. “That success relies on the long-term support and investments of policymakers and key partners like those here today.”

Photo slideshow and video of the historic visit. Read more about the visit here.

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  • Olivia HuangApr 12, 2024 at 10:00 PM

    As a student interested in the medical field, it is very encouraging to see politicians and leaders in our community step up to support the next generation in medical education. I hope that the government will continue to pursue the dream universal healthcare so that everyone can enjoy healthy lives. Thank you to those who sacrificed their time and energy to share their passion, dreams, and talents and to create a better future!

  • Karina BApr 12, 2024 at 9:21 AM

    This was a really good article on an important topic and I’m glad Rio provides programs for people to get medical training while still in high school.

  • Fatima Q.Apr 12, 2024 at 9:21 AM

    Very well written! It’s so great to see our school encourage medical programs. It not only helps boost the number of assistants and doctors but also prepares students before they go out into the real world.

  • nameerApr 11, 2024 at 11:05 AM

    Solid & informative article!

  • Mapalo KateuleApr 11, 2024 at 8:40 AM

    Great writing, so informative!

  • Isabel AvilaApr 10, 2024 at 6:25 PM

    I think it is super cool that the school is investing in this program and that we have important people seeing how more programs similar to this need to happen.

  • AvaApr 10, 2024 at 11:33 AM

    This is such a good opportunity for Rio students to get career training before going out into the field.

  • Kade RApr 9, 2024 at 5:47 PM

    Great article, it was very well written.