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A student at the Central Texas Allied Health Institute attends class in a face mask

Central Texas Allied Health Institute Trains Frontline COVID-19 Workers

COVID-19 Project Overview

The need for frontline health care workers in Central Texas is more urgent and serious than ever because of the coronavirus pandemic. Building on an effective model for training health professionals who come from underrepresented communities, the Central Texas Allied Health Institute is raising up workers to join the fight against COVID-19.

The institute’s pipeline ensures students graduate with the skills and certification they need to serve as patient care technicians, phlebotomists, EKG technicians, and medical assistants. With support from partners, the institute accelerated its recruiting and training efforts to meet the community’s health needs.

We strive to bring high quality allied health education to communities who traditionally have not had access to these types of training programs.

Dr. Jereka Thomas-Hockaday, Co-Founder

How it Helps

By providing high-quality and affordable education in the areas of allied health, which are professions distinct from medicine and nursing, the institute meets workforce demand in Central Texas while ensuring people from all backgrounds can enter the field. The institute focuses on Black and Latinx communities, which make up 12.5% and 9% respectively of the nation’s healthcare practitioners and technical occupations as of 2019.

Graduates are able to build on their training to develop meaningful careers with high earning potential. Through the institute’s stackable pathways model, an individual can start their practice with one credential and return later for further education or to shift their career focus after time in the field.

About 250-300 students train across two levels of programs that take five weeks to nine months to complete. During the pandemic, the institute ensures students can train safely and thoroughly using a hybrid model of online classes and in-person labs. It also continues to offer bundle pricing for price transparency and to keep student debt low, working with the Texas Workforce Commission to provide financial assistance for those who qualify.

Local health employers partner with the institute to offer externships and job opportunities to students and graduates. One of the institute’s current focuses is matching people to COVID-19 response teams on the frontlines of care.

A Vision Sparked through Personal Experience

For people from racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in medicine (as compared to the nation’s population), learning about career pathways and finding mentors from the same background is difficult. Dr. Jereka Thomas-Hockaday, co-founder of the institute, experienced this in her childhood when accompanying her father to lung cancer treatment. Dr. Thomas-Hockaday says she learned a lot about the medical system in this time and noticed a lack of people who looked like her — a lack that continued to be visible later in her training and career.

Though she considered going to medical school, the idea of incurring so much debt deterred her from that pathway. Instead, Dr. Thomas-Hockaday trained as a surgical technologist and then as a surgical assistant. She also worked as a teacher and operated her own business along the way. Eventually, the call to train other underrepresented individuals like herself developed into a vision for the Central Texas Allied Health Institute. Through the nonprofit, Dr. Thomas-Hockaday and her team are helping people access training they traditionally have not had. The institute is also filling gaps in the allied health professions locally — work that began prior to COVID-19 but is making a big impact now in how the community faces this health crisis.

Foundation Project Lead