Training Future Health Care Workforce

UH Prepares Students to Meet Real-World Needs.

by Michelle Klump

Biomedical StudentWith the number of health care workers needed in the Gulf Coast Region projected to increase 44 percent by 2016, the University of Houston is looking at ways to increase its already sizeable impact on the workforce.

With 49 health-related programs and research areas, including biology, chemistry, social sciences, law, sociology, psychology, pharmacy, optometry and many others, the university is a major contributor. In 2009 alone, UH awarded 1,202 health-related baccalaureate degrees; 439 graduate degrees; and 210 special professional degrees in optometry and pharmacy. The university also is at the forefront of health-related research, which accounted for $61.1 million of its $110 million in research awards in 2009.

But to help meet the growing need for new workers, UH is positioning itself to become the leader in health care education, says Kathryn Peek (M.S. ’70), assistant vice president of University Health Initiatives.


Along with the traditional programs that lead to health careers, UH offers others, such as The Honors College’s Medicine & Society Program, that teach future health care workers important skills that will set them apart in the workforce.


Her goal: The University of Houston is the destination of choice for students in the 13-county Gulf Coast Region who are interested in a health career.

Peek and other UH administrators are taking a comprehensive look at current and future health care workforce needs in the region, along with the program offerings at UH System institutions, and are determining what new programs need to be added to help fill the gaps. In addition to developing new programs, UH is working to strengthen ties with other members of the Texas Medical Center — a major incentive the university can offer students.

Dr. Nathan Wolfe“We have very close ties to the Texas Medical Center,” Peek says. “We are developing pathways so that if a student enters UH as a freshman or transfer student, we can plug them into a pathway, and get them the type of career counseling they need so they know what their job opportunities are. We are very workforce oriented.”

Along with the traditional programs that lead to health careers, UH offers others, such as The Honors College’s Medicine & Society Program, that teach future health care workers important skills that will set them apart in the workforce.

“By encouraging students to explore modern medical practice through the perspectives provided by philosophy, history, religion, ethics and law, [the program aims] to foster a deeper level of analysis, reflection and broad-based understanding in our future medical practitioners,” says Helen Valier, assistant professor and program coordinator. “We are particularly concerned to see our future clinicians develop the skills of analysis, empathy and self-reflection through their coursework in the program.”

Student News

Krystafer Redden, Honors sophomore political science and history major, has been appointed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to serve as the student representative of the Undergraduate Advisory Committee of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The committee provides recommendations to the board regarding the direction of undergraduate education in Texas. Redden’s two-year appointment began in June.

Asal Shokati (’07), graduate finance major, was recognized for her plan to use microfinance to help low-income Texans harvest and sell fresh fruit and vegetables in community gardens. She was a finalist in the Academy of Distinguished Scholars 2009–2010 Public Interest Awards, a statewide competition.

The UH chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers has won first place at the Chem-E-Car regional competition. Working on a pressure system, the 26-pound car — Cougalac — relied on the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide using a catalyst to build pressure in two tanks. UH beat its competitors by traveling 44 feet and then 51.5 feet, the longest distance. The team (Walter Barta, Jorge Cubas, Allen Lo, Richard Ma, Abel Morales, Vinh Nguyen, Tola Ouk and Kennan Stuhr) will compete in the nationals in Salt Lake City in November.

Beth Christopherson and Matt Estey, students at the Graduate College of Social Work, will lead health-related service initiatives for underserved individuals and communities during 2010–2011 under the prestigious Houston-Galveston Schweitzer Fellows Program. They are the first students from UH to be selected as Schweitzer Fellows.