Hamburg medical professions program students

Five Hamburg juniors have been accepted into next year’s Medical Health Professions program coordinated by BCTC, in collaboration with Reading Hospital and Penn State Berks. From left, Tamandeep Saggi, Catharine Wingle, Emilee Kachel, Julie Harbonic and Caitlin Steele are pictured with Hamburg’s current program participant, senior Josie Keith (far right), wearing her scrubs.

Five Hamburg Area High School juniors have been accepted into next year’s Medical Health Professions Program which is coordinated by Berks Career and Technology Center, in collaboration with the Reading Hospital and Penn State Berks.

Accepted into next year’s program are Hamburg students Tamandeep Saggi, Catharine Wingle, Emilee Kachel, Julie Harbonic and Caitlin Steele.

“The program is for high achieving high school seniors, who aspire to become medical professionals of some sort. It is a very competitive program, and students from all districts who send students to BCTC (Antietam, Boyertown, Brandywine Heights, Conrad Weiser, Daniel Boone, Exeter, Fleetwood, Governor Mifflin, Hamburg, Kutztown, Muhlenberg, Schuylkill Valley, Tulpehocken, Twin Valley, Wilson, and Wyomissing) can apply,” said Clare Kilpatrick Benz, Career Education Specialist, Hamburg Area School District.

In the past, Hamburg has had only one or two applicants accepted. This year, not only all five of Hamburg’s applicants were accepted, but they are young women, noted Benz.

“The fact that all five applicants from Hamburg Area were accepted is a major accomplishment,” said Benz. “I believe this says a great deal about Hamburg’s students. First of all, they are MORE than academically prepared to compete with their peers throughout the county. They, their parents, and their teachers are all to be acknowledged for that.”

Benz said this also says that Hamburg has career-focused students who are willing to work at being accepted and succeeding within a very competitive program.

“The maturity required for this program is obviously high. Not only do these students need to be comfortable in more ‘adult’ settings (college campus, hospital), but they must also be willing to sacrifice time with their peers, as they spend half of their school day away from their high school, for their entire senior year.”

Participants spend half of the school day at their high school. The other half they rotate through attending a college class at Penn State Berks, one in the fall, another in the spring semester, clinical time at BCTC, and shadowing various departments at Reading Hospital. The program was doubled in size for next year, having both an afternoon and a morning offering for the students.

“There are so many benefits to this program,” said Benz.

Students earn 8 college credits via enrollment in two science classes at Penn State Berks.

“Experiencing the academic difficulty of a college course, one semester at a time, is an amazing benefit prior to full time enrollment in a post-secondary institution,” she said. “They are also able to observe, up close and in person a wide variety of medical settings and medical careers. This in turn aids them in their career decision-making, as they can determine in which departments they are most interested and in which they feel most comfortable.”

Most of all, Benz hopes the students learn if a career within the medical field is indeed what they most desire.

“If not, they will have still had an amazing educational experience, and earned 8 college credits. If yes, they begin their full time post-secondary education knowing the intensity of their studies, as well as the long range results,” she said. “They are presumably acquiring valuable self-knowledge as well. Are they already great at time management, or is that something on which they need to improve? Are they most comfortable with direct patient care, or would they prefer behind the scenes work?”

Benz said that the school district is grateful to have this program in Berks County, thanking BCTC, Penn State Berks, and Reading Hospital/Tower Health for providing this opportunity to students.

“I would also like to again commend the students, their parents, and their teachers, for all of their hard work, dedication, and support, which made our students’ acceptance into this program possible. Also, I would like to thank our currently enrolled senior, Josie Keith, for providing next year’s participants with some very valuable first-hand advice about the program.”

She answered the juniors’ questions about the program, explaining that it does take time and commitment to juggle this greater academic workload while still a high school student, but it is all worth it.

For more information about the Medical Health Professions program which is coordinated by Berks Career and Technology Center, visit

Lisa Mitchell is an editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers, covering news and events in the Northeast Berks County area.

comments powered by Disqus