This fall, as Galveston high school students begin choosing extracurricular activities, they’ll have a special option to explore a career in health care.
The Texas Area Health Education Center East, based at UTMB, offers a program to students throughout East Texas called Encouraging the College-Bound into Healthcare Careers. This year, coordinators are especially encouraging Galveston students to participate in the extracurricular program.
One of Texas AHEC East’s primary goals is to expose, attract and encourage families and students from all ethnic and economic backgrounds to consider careers in health care. During the last academic year Texas AHEC East staff served as mentors to 418 high school students in 111 counties.
The ECHO program offers students the opportunity to learn all about the wide array of health care professions and career paths.
Of course most high school students generally know what nurses, doctors and pharmacists do, but beyond that, they are probably less familiar with allied health fields like physical, occupational or respiratory therapy, or may not know what nutritionists, radiology technicians or physician assistants do.
More importantly, students may not know that these careers are within their reach. In today’s health care environment, there are so many fields with so many educational paths that vary in length and intensity for high school students to consider.  
The program provides a variety of learning experiences that include shadowing a professional health care worker and special career workshops that are tailored to the students. With support from the regional office at UTMB, students also participate in community service projects and receive advice on preparing and applying for college, financial aid sessions and college campus tours.
With UTMB, the state’s preeminent health care institution in their own backyard, Galveston high school students who participate in the ECHO program have an unparalleled opportunity to explore nearly every health care career that exists.
Students themselves make the choice about how many hours each week to devote to all of the various activities, but the more they put in, the better their potential reward. At the end of each school year, some of the most accomplished of the ECHO students in East Texas are selected to attend the prestigious ECHO summer camp held at Lamar University in Beaumont.
Highly accomplished ECHO students may also apply for ECHO college scholarships. This past spring, Texas AHEC East and its centers awarded $43,500 in scholarships to 29 deserving college-bound high school students.
One of the most secure career sectors in this insecure economy is health care. Recent research found that four of the top 10 occupations with the potential for the largest growth are in health care, with the number one and number nine spots going to careers in nursing, and the number two and number five spots going to careers in the allied health professions, such as physical, occupational and respiratory therapy.
The program director for Texas AHEC East, Steve Shelton, hopes that by educating students on potiental career paths and helping students make college a reality, we will ultimately lead students to secure, stable and sucessful careers.
Funds for ECHO activities are supported by a grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. To get involved in the ECHO program, call 409-772-7884 or email
For complete information about AHEC and all its initiatives, visit
Amanda W. Scarbrough is the projects and planning manager for Texas AHEC East.