Mercy Health was honored to host Governor Rick Snyder and U.S. Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta on Monday, August 21, 2017. The 45-minute visit focused on the U.S. Department of Labor-registered Medical Assistant Apprenticeship Program, which is conducted in partnership with Grand Rapids Community College, Muskegon Community College, Montcalm Community College and West Michigan Works!
During a roundtable discussion, the governor and secretary were eager to hear about the experiences of three Medical Assistants, Jamie Hoeksema, a graduate of the program, and Tania Hernandez and Wenika Gibson, who are currently participating in the program.
Presenting key information and statistics about the program from Mercy Health were:
- Bill Manns, president of Mercy Health Saint Mary’s;
- Shana Welch, SHRM-SCP, Regional Director, Talent Acquisition, Human Resources;
- Diane Goryl, who leads the MA Apprenticeship Program in Muskegon;
- Karen DeVries, who leads the MA Apprenticeship Program in Grand Rapids;
- Dave Blair, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Medical Director of Mercy Health Physician Partners Grand Rapids;
- Liz Murphy, CNO, Vice President, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.
Mercy Health colleagues were joined by Angie Barksdale of West Michigan Works!, and Gov. Snyder was accompanied by Roger Curtis, director of the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development.
After the discussion, Gibson demonstrated the skills of a medical assistant for the governor and labor secretary, such as taking a patient’s blood pressure and preparing him for his visit with his provider.
“It quickly became obvious this visit was not for the governor or secretary to get any media attention or to posture for political gain,” said Manns in a thank-you email to Mercy Health colleagues who had hosted and prepared for the event. “It was remarkable to see the sincerity of their desire to learn from us and to try to identify ways they could spread the program across the nation. Upon leaving, they seemed to be impressed and were very complimentary of our team.”
Welch was appreciative of Snyder and Acosta’s interest in growing and developing the program in the near future, as they pointedly asked Mercy Health and West Michigan Works!,” What do you need to move this program forward?”
“It was meaningful dialogue about the important work of expanding apprenticeship programs and providing clear pathways to a broader population, including high schools students,” said Welch, who has expressed interest in expanding the program.
This trip to Grand Rapids marked Sec. Acosta’s third trip to Michigan since his appointment in April 2017, according to his staffers who accompanied him on the tour.
Fast facts about the Mercy Health Medical Assistant Registered Apprenticeship Program, which began in January 2016:
- Mercy Health has had 35 medical assistant apprentices go through the program, representing a mix of external and internal candidates.
- The program was created to meet local health care providers’ critical need for qualified Medical Assistants and provide an entry point for individuals to grow into a variety of careers in the industry. The program is fully funded and students graduate with no student loan debt.
- The program allows Mercy Health to foster frontline workers through the Medical Assistant Apprenticeship program, where colleagues receive the clinical training and education to become certified medical assistants, while also earning a paycheck from Mercy Health. Many program participants have encountered barriers to receiving an education or when trying to transfer into their desired field of health care.
- Mercy Health West Michigan has committed to partnerships with three regional community colleges, West Michigan Works!, and several community workforce training partners—including Grand Rapids Urban League and Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids—to proactively identify and train up to 300 unemployed or underemployed people per year for health care professions, reaching many in underserved populations.