The partnership between Horizon High and Orlando Health - Horizon West Hospital is the culmination of multiple people putting their heads together to create a program that benefits both the school and medical facility.
When Horizon High opened in 2021, the husband-and-wife team of Graig Smith and Melissa Brisbin-Smith wanted to give their biomedical students something other than a traditional textbook education in the field of medicine. They approached the administration at Horizon West Hospital to see if the hospital would be willing to work with the school to provide a hands-on learning environment to seniors in Horizon High’s biomedical science, biomedical innovations and biology program.
“(Principal Andrew) Jackson gave us the free rein to do something special,” Smith said. “We really wanted to focus on providing unique experiences while they were still in high school. … It’s a great opportunity for students to learn by doing … and we looked at what could we do to take that to the next level. … It’s difficult to get students excited about things.”
Smith and Brisbin-Smith co-teach the school’s four-year biomedical academy — he teaches years one and four, and she is in charge of years two and three.
The hospital and school devised a program in which the 20 biomedical students go to the hospital monthly for different programs pertaining to the healthcare field. They have met with teams from the hospital’s emergency medical services unit, firefighters, doctors and others. They have toured the various hospital departments, met administrators and learned about HIPA and other hospital protocols.
This is the first year of the partnership, which was started in January. Alisa Slimick, chief nursing officer at Horizon West Hospital, said the program will begin at the start of the next school year and run through May.
On a recent Wednesday, the topics were pediatrics and stopping bleeding through the use of tourniquets and pressure. Students were able to practice tourniquet application on each other and applying pressure on fake limbs.
Ed Hall, EMS liaison, told the students about the time he was at the beach and a young woman ran out of the water bleeding profusely. She had a deep cut on her leg, and he grabbed a towel, packed it in her wound “and saved the day,” he said.
“If you’re out in the field … you have a chance to make a difference,” Hall said.
Most of the students have been putting in volunteer hours at Orlando Health – Health Central Hospital in Ocoee.
“We’re finding they like the hands-on kind of stuff, so next year were looking for more experiences,” Slimick said.
“They’re just so excited to share what they’ve learned,” Smith said. “(The hospital has) been more than welcoming to the students. … They’ve really gone above and beyond what we expected, and we’re grateful for that opportunity.”
For Hayley Makin, Rebecca Klavans and Alyssa Miller, the class has provided the chance to discover the path they want to take in college before graduating high school.
“I’d always been interested in the medical field, so I really joined this when I entered high school because … this class would allow me to further that interest and let me figure out what I wanted to do,” Miller said.
She said she has narrowed down her decision to either nurse practitioner or physician. Helping her make the decision, too, has been her volunteer work in the spine and orthopedics unit.
“It’s really let me know what my options are and see what it really takes to get into that field,” Miller said.
She is dual-enrolled at Horizon High and Valencia College and will attend the University of Central Florida in the fall.
“I wanted to join the biomedical program because I’ve always been interested in the medical field and I wanted to explore what I really wanted to do,” Makin said. “I didn’t want to get to college and try to figure out. … I found nursing is what I want to do.”
She has been volunteering in the medical surgical unit at Health Central Hospital. During her weekly four-hour shift, she is assisting the nurses wherever there is a need.
Makin will attend Florida State University in the fall.
Klavans plans to be a geneticist but wanted to explore all the different options the hospital could provide in case something else caught her eye, she said. So far, she still wants to stick with genetics.
“You know in your heart,” she said of her passion for the medical field.
Klavans will attend Boston University after graduation.
“They’re very committed and very excited and passionate about what they want to do,” Slimick said of all the students in the program. “And very driven. It takes a very goal-driven student in high school to really know what they want. … I think it’s important for them to have to as much exposure and experience as they can.
“Horizon West Hospital is so excited to be able to partner with this school and help these students get experience in health care,” Slimick said. “We’re really excited to see where it grows from here.”