Students gain knowledge through Healthcare Apprentice Program

Dr. Divyakant Gandhi of McLaren Greater Lansing was in his element during a late July morning in the hospital’s Clinical Education Department.

Surrounded by 13 students representing nine high schools from around the area, the Director of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery spoke excitedly about the “amazing” intricacies of a pig’s heart. Using a scalpel as a pointer, he identified various parts of a heart as he held it in one of his gloved hands.

He then went around the room as students – clad in surgical gowns and gloves – examined a pig’s heart.. Some explored the heart with their hands and inserted their fingers into different openings, while others used surgical scissors to cut it open and examine it.

During this time, Dr. Gandhi helped students identify the left ventricle, the right ventricle, the aortic valve and other features of the heart. He explained the way a heart beats – contracting and twisting at the same time – making it more efficient in moving blood through the body.

He also spoke to the students about the passion needed to have a satisfying career in health care. He told them a person must possess an intense desire to help others to be successful. In regards to his own line of work, he said becoming a surgeon simply to make lots money was a “losing proposition.”

The students in attendance are the first cohort of McLaren Greater Lansing’s Healthcare Apprentice Program. This group, made up of nine young women and four young men: one recent high school graduate, 10 sophomores as well as two sophomores-to-be.

Because each of them are considering a field in health care, the experience can be pivotal in their decision-making process.  

“I was one of those people who always knew I wanted to be a nurse,” said Amanda Lampron, clinical education manager at McLaren Greater Lansing. “But there are a lot of people out there who do not know anything about health care, and might pursue a career in the field if they knew more about it.”

Lampron also spoke of the urgent need for more people to enter the health care field as the United States has an aging population at the same time the industry is experiencing a shortage of nurses and health care providers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the health care field will add approximately 2.4 million new jobs by 2026, but a recent analysis by Mercer’s Workforce Strategy and Analytics estimate that growth may fall well short of industry demands in the occupations of home health aides, nursing assistants, medical and lab technologists, medical and lab technicians, nurse practitioners, and physicians and surgeons.

Also, demographers expect 2056 will mark the first time in history the number of Americans 65 and older will exceed the number of Americans under 18. As those older Americans age, most of them will be expected to need more health care services.

The inaugural Healthcare Apprentice Program was held from July 23-26. Students were exposed to a slew of different “experiences” in areas such as nursing, respiratory therapy, case management, physical and occupational therapy, radiology, diet and nutrition, biomedical, sterile processing, pharmacy and cardiac rehabilitation.

Dr. Gandhi’s presentation was part of a morning during which students examined a human-size medical mannequin know as a 3D Sim Man, and learned how to perform basic life support (BLS) procedures such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on an adult, as well as a young child. They later took and passed a BLS certification test.

The first pilot cohort was comprised of students who had a parent who worked for McLaren Greater Lansing or one of its affiliates. Moving forward, the Clinical Education Department will reach out to the community next summer when it plans to fill two cohorts of 12-15 students each.

“There is definitely a population out there that is not being exposed to information about these types of careers,” Lampron said. “We want to reach out to them.”

Madelyn Hobart of Grand Ledge High School was one of the students in the inaugural cohort. She wants to become a neonatal nurse because she has always loved babies, and wants to “hold them and comfort them” whenever she hears one cry.

She got “really excited and thought it was a great idea” when she heard about the Healthcare Apprentice Program from her mom, Jamie Ives, a cardiovascular technician in the Catheterization Lab.

Echoing some of the thoughts of Dr. Gandhi, Hobart wants to have a job she’s passionate about so “it’s easier to get up early or work late because you’re doing it for the right reasons.”

Theodore Hunt II of Owosso High School is contemplating a career in health care or special education. He wants to become a neurologist if he goes the medical field route, but only after he has earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and spent several years working as a nurse.

The son of Nichole Hunt, assistant manager in the Emergency Department, feels that being a nurse will make him a better doctor, because he will know firsthand what nurses experience in their jobs.

The outgoing Hunt enjoyed the program and was “amazed at how many different opportunities there are, and how they all work together.”

Fonz Byrd of Eaton Rapids High School, who struck up a friendship with Hunt, is interested in becoming an anesthesiologist or going into the business world. He was fascinated by the dissection of the pig’s heart and plans to take up Dr. Gandhi on his offer to all the students to observe an open-heart surgery.

Byrd, whose mom Brijette is a computed tomography (CT) technician at Mid-Michigan Physicians Imaging, thinks that viewing an open-heart surgery will be a “cool thing to see.” It will also let him watch how members of the surgical team, including the anesthesiologist, work together.

For Samaya Moreno of Okemos High School and Lindsay Richards of Holt, the program increased their interest in pursuing a career in health care, although they have yet to decide on a specific field.

Moreno, whose mom Elizabeth is an emergency department educator, said trauma was “definitely interesting to her.” However, her experiences in biotech and obstetrics also “caught her eye.”

Richards, whose mother Kristen is a patient care manager, found getting a first-hand look at Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to be very enjoyable. She particularly liked reading the scans in MRI.

Ian Waters of Holt High School entered the program intent on becoming a physical therapist. However, he found it interesting to watch the lab technicians at work.

The son of Petra Waters, a case manager at McLaren Greater Lansing, he has grown up playing sports and wants to work with athletes “to help them come back from injuries so they can compete again.”

Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the end of the Healthcare Apprentice Program, Lampron thanked all the hospital departments that contributed to its success.

Each student, who was wearing a red polo shirt provided by Volunteer Services, was presented with a certificate of completion, as well as a form stating they were BLS certified. They also received 32 volunteer hours for completing the program and were invited to return to the hospital to serve as volunteers.

The whole experience confirmed Lampron’s belief in the need for a program at the hospital that can introduce students to different facets of health care and interest them in a career in the medical field.

“This is an amazing place, and we do amazing things here,” she said. “Being able to expose kids to what goes on here is really important.”

The Healthcare Apprentice Program was supported by a grant from the McLaren Greater Lansing Foundation’s WeCare Committee.

To learn more about the Healthcare Apprentice Program, please call 517-975-7187 or email

If you would like to learn more about the Foundation or support the Healthcare Apprentice Program, or another program or department at the hospital, please call 517.975.7100, email, or visit