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Inspiring Youth to Pursue Health Care Careers

More than 300 Bay Area students got a taste of life as a health care professional during a day of hands-on simulations at Kaiser Permanente’s Garfield Innovation Center.


Over a tray of surgical implements, a surgeon and nurse high five.

They had just finished closing up a patient after a successful operation.

“Good job,” the surgeon said, taking off his surgical mask, braces gleaming.


Picture 1 of 5

The 2 were some of the more than 300 students who attended Youth Career Day at the Kaiser Permanente Garfield Innovation Center May 2-3. The annual event is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente Northern California Patient Care Services.

Launched in 2013, Youth Career Day exposes underserved youth who are interested in pursuing a career in health care to diverse opportunities in the industry through realistic, interactive scenarios and simulations.

“It’s a great opportunity to actually be hands-on and see how hospitals work,” said Winnie Zhang, a senior at George Washington High School in San Francisco, who volunteered to be a nurse in the Operating Room simulation.

Located in a warehouse district in San Leandro, the Garfield Innovation Center is the largest health care innovation center in the country.

Kaiser Permanente uses the space to test and study innovations through hands-on simulations, prototyping, and new technology used in medical centers, clinics, and non-traditional settings across the country — an ideal backdrop for students to explore what inspires them in an ever-changing, multidisciplinary field.

Experiential Learning

Led by Kaiser Permanente volunteers and nurses, the students had the opportunity to participate in a diverse range of health care scenarios — many outside of the typical hospital setting.

In addition to participating in a mock surgery in a recreated Operating Room and witnessing a birth via a simulation dummy, students took part in a scripted story tracking mental health services for adolescent depression and explored healthy eating and living habits in a staged apartment. They also reflected upon the importance of a positive bedside manner in a new, tech-savvy Kaiser Permanente hospital room designed to engage patients and streamline workflows.

“Students can envision themselves in actual settings that represents where health care is going,” said Nikki West, Health Care Education Management director at Kaiser Permanente Northern California and co-organizer of the event. “It also encourages young people to expand their notion of future fields of study.”

Inspiring the Next Wave of Health Care Professionals

Participants in Youth Career Day represented an array of ages and life experiences.

Purushotam Prasai, a PhD immunologist from Nepal, is currently a student at Diversity in Health Training Institute, a program that supports recent immigrants and refugees in the health care field to become credentialed providers in the United States.

“It’s a wonderful experience to learn at the Garfield Innovation Center and see first-hand how Kaiser Permanente advances medical technology and trains staff,” Prasai said.

The event drew the attention of public officials, who came and observed the scenarios. 

“A lot of times when our students think about STEM education, they think about programming or engineering. But there are so many opportunities in medicine at all levels to explore,” said Mary Nicely, district director for Assemblymember Tony Thurmond.

Theresa Broderick, vice president of Clinical Integration and regional chief nursing executive, agreed.

“We want to invest in our communities, provide a service to them, and hopefully they’ll want to work in health care,” she said.

For educators, Youth Career Day brings together classroom material with real-world application.

“I’ve visited other career days at hospitals, and they’re usually just walkthroughs,” said Sue Anderson who teaches a Medical Careers class at Castro Valley High School. “But what’s so different about Youth Career Day at the Garfield Innovation Center is that the kids get to actually dive into health care practices and experience it for themselves. You can’t get that anywhere else.”

To date, participants in Youth Career Day have mostly been juniors and seniors from health career academies, with a lens towards underserved populations. If you wish to receive more information on the program, or have any questions, please contact Nikki West, Health Care Education Management director at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, at



This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Wow, so cool! My daughter is a STEM major. She will be attending UC Berkeley in the fall. She would have loved this opportunity! Please bring these types of programs to the Central Valley. We have a lot of brilliant students in this fast-growing region of California!

  2. A great story about a great program! Congratulations to Nikki and everyone who helped plan the very large event and have it turn out so well!

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