Loris schools prepare to focus on medical education

vgrooms@thesunnews.comSeptember 20, 2012 

— Plans are under way to brand the cluster of schools in Loris as the medical education hub for Horry County Schools through partnerships with Horry Georgetown Technical College and McLeod Loris Regional Healthcare Center. The proposed program was announced Thursday at the schools’ advisory board meeting and is still in its early development stage.

The district has encouraged its nine attendance areas to develop a unifying identity that each cluster can own. Most clusters are in the process of defining their focus, but the Myrtle Beach cluster rallied around the Covey Leadership Initiative, based on Stephen Covey’s book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” in 2010, and the Carolina Forest cluster adopted a focus on fine arts in May.

Cindy Ambrose, HCS chief academic officer, said the close relationship between the Loris hospital and members of the community – many of whom are employees – is unique, which makes a medical emphasis in the cluster a natural fit. In addition, the hospital already has an established relationship with the Academy of Technology and Academics through the school’s Health Occupation program.

Building a medical magnet program for the long term is a three- to five-year process, but two courses are planned for next semester to kick off the initiative. An introduction to medical careers will showcase the range of healthcare opportunities that exist – including areas such as medical coding and the business side of running a healthcare facility – and there will be a core course offered in medical terminology. Ambrose said the program will emphasize leadership and service, and she believes offerings can be developed for students as young as preschool level.

Officials from HGTC, McLeod Loris Regional and the city said the proposed program holds many positives for the Loris area.

“We don’t want your children to leave this area,” said Marilyn Fore, HGTC senior vice president for academic affairs, who said the college’s 20 programs of study in the healthcare field is training a quarter of its students for medical careers that are available locally.

Tammy Dickerson, director of human resources for the healthcare center, said she wants students to be excited about the many opportunities in the medical field, especially those that require technology skills. She said even with the tough economy, it has been difficult to fill some hospital positions because of the specific skill sets that are required.

David Stoudenmire, principal at ATA and mayor of Loris, said education and healthcare are key factors that businesses consider when looking to locate in an area.

“You don’t know how important it is for recruiting business and industry,” Stoudenmire said. “This can only cause us to recruit better and recruit more, but it’s not just a Loris thing. It’s an Horry County thing and a South Carolina thing.”

The district will be looking at all possibilities for the program and will be seeking input from stakeholders, including Horry County school board members. Loris High Principal Dirk Gurley said he is excited this can be done for the community, and while they don’t want to get too far ahead of themselves, he said he expects the program to be up and running next fall.

Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.

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