Mount Airy medical education center has ‘grand opening’ -- Gazette.Net







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Classes have begun at a new allied health care education center in Mount Airy that is expected to produce about 100 potential health care workers in Maryland each year.

About 200 students are enrolled for the first semester at Mount Airy College Center for Health Education, a cooperative effort between Howard, Frederick and Carroll community colleges, designed to make health care training more accessible to area students and combat a shortage in the state’s health care workforce, said Kathleen Hetherington, Howard Community College president.

“This joint facility provides [students at] Carroll, Frederick and Howard Community College with better access to much needed health care programs,” she said at the center’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday.

Also known as the Mid-Maryland Community College Allied Healthcare Education Center, the facility located at 1902 Back Acre Circle will be able to train up to 500 students each year to help fill the more than 55,000 new health care jobs in the state that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Workforce Investment Board estimates will be needed by 2018.

“This is about jobs, jobs, jobs,” U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) said at the ceremony. “It’s about giving people the tools they need to keep the jobs they have, and it’s about preparing people for jobs that are available in Maryland today.”

Nada Diab, 40, of Frederick is one of those students.

Diab, who has worked as a phlebotomist in the area for 20 years, is now enrolled at the school, majoring in medical laboratory technology. She will be trained in the performance of routine laboratory procedures using complex equipment.

Diab said she has been trying to enroll in a medical-laboratory technology program for several years but could not find one that was close enough until the center opened on Aug. 27. She has been in the program for about five weeks and is excited to come to class every day.

“I really like the environment,” she said. “We really have everything you can think of here.”

Diab is expected to graduate with her associate’s degree in two years.

The center features four labs, including one for computers and another for medical simulation, a student lounge and three lecture rooms, said Caroline Wood, director of the center. Four associates-degree programs and two certificate-training programs are being offered at the center.

The 20,000 square-foot center was funded, in part, through $1 million in federal funds awarded to the three-college partnership for construction, which ended in August. Donations from the colleges and area hospitals for the more than $4 million facility, including Frederick Memorial Hospital, also helped to fund the project.

As part of the agreement, the colleges will share specific allied health programs, such as respiratory care and emergency medical technology, giving students the opportunity to take a wider variety of classes at in-county rates.

The center has three full-time staff members, four full-time faculty and between 15 to 20 adjunct faculty members, Wood said.

Along with Mikulski, numerous local and state politicians as well as academic leaders attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, including Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings (D).

“Our children are the living message to a future we will never see. This center is so very, very important in preparing those young people for a bright future,” Cummings said.

He said the center is a representation of the state’s commitment to education.

“Maryland is a leader. We show America how to do things well, and this is a prime example,” Cummings said.

Mount Airy Mayor Patrick Rockinberg said that the town is happy to have participated in the project.

“As mayor of a town physically split between two counties ... we have faced some interesting challenges. I believe that with any challenge there are opportunities, and this grand opening demonstrates that,” he said.

“[Those who worked on the project] have actually turned the challenges of our unique location into an opportunity to bring together and expand the educational resources available to students of all the surrounding counties and beyond.”