By Jeff Malet, Writer/Photographer

The Pomona Health Career Ladder (PHCL), a workshop for sixth- and seventh-graders aspiring to be health professionals, begins its second year on Oct. 17, 2009, with the first of six Saturday academies at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif.

Pomona Unified School District students who graduated from the academy last year, in addition to a few other seventh-graders, will be honored in a ceremony on the first day and will be cloaked with white coats. These seventh-graders will be known as Biomedical Scholars and, in addition to attending workshops, will be asked to help teach incoming sixth-graders and design the workshops.

Sixth- and seventh-grade workshops run concurrently in separate rooms yet have the same themes, including cardiovascular health, fitness and sports injuries, and microbiology.

Saturday workshops for the 2009-10 academic year are scheduled from 8:45 a.m. – noon on Oct. 17, Nov. 14, Dec. 5, and in 2010, Jan. 23, Feb. 27, and April 17 at WesternU’s Health Professions Center at 521 E. Third Street.

Incoming students and their parents, who have filled out an RSVP and a release form, will start the process by being introduced to careers in medicine, such as a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, dentist, optometrist, physical therapist, physician assistant or a veterinarian. Parent involvement is mandatory.

Oral health prevention, updates on the latest technological advances in dentistry, and an overview of the different career paths within the dental profession will be a newly added section at these workshops this year, said Timothy S. Martinez, DMD, College of Dental Medicine Associate Dean for Community Partnerships and Access to Care.

PHCL is a joint effort between Pomona Unified School District, WesternU and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, to help guide students into becoming health care professionals.

If students meet all the requirements in the program, they will have the opportunity to earn an undergraduate degree in health or sciences from Cal Poly Pomona and be assured early acceptance to a range of graduate colleges at WesternU.

Pomona students will have more college programs to choose from by the time they enter WesternU.

This year alone three new colleges – Podiatric Medicine, Dental Medicine and Optometry – welcomed their inaugural classes, and a fourth, Biomedical Sciences, begins in 2010. The new colleges are in addition to the well-established colleges on campus – COMP, Allied Health Professions, Pharmacy, Graduate Nursing and Veterinary Medicine.

For more information about the Pomona Career Health Ladder program, please visit our Web site.