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Everything Health at this High School

Duluth’s McClure Health Science High School will root its curriculum in medical matters.

Like it or not, understand it or not, healthcare and all its complexity––how we access it, who pays for it, what we’re entitled to––is a part of everyone’s daily life. From the HIPAA forms we sign at the doctor’s office but never read and the medical bills we can’t decipher; to pharmaceutical side effects and the bickering on Capitol Hill.

Gwinnett County Public Schools is making its contribution to the healthcare conversation but in a way that seeks to add value to the future, not fuel to the fire.

McClure Health Science High School in Duluth opens this fall as a school that will teach its curriculum through the lens of health science. Trying to solve a problem in math class? Students may learn to calculate IV drip rates or convert dosages from our decimal system to the metric system. Taking an art class? Budding artists may learn the intricacies of drawing the human anatomy. Two courses have been designed specifically for McClure Health Science HS: Medical Ethics and the Law and Current Issues in Healthcare, and both will be required classes for freshmen.

No one is asking ninth graders who are choosing this new option to determine their life’s work at the age of 14, but there’s no escaping the fact that the medical field is ripe for harvest.

“Of the 25 fastest growing occupations, nine of the top ten are in the health science field,” says McClure Health Science HS Principal Nicole Mosley. “So we’re really developing not only an educated but job-ready workforce.”

Students will have pathway completers that will give them a running start if a job in healthcare is in their future. For example, they can take Introduction to Health Science and Essentials in Healthcare, then complete that pathway with one of a number of courses––Patient Care Fundamentals, Emergency Medical Responder, Fundamentals of Exercise Physiology––that when successfully completed will allow them to literally cross the street to Kaiser Permanente as certified medical assistants.

Partnerships with healthcare facilities and a dual-enrollment arrangement with Gwinnett Technical College makes McClure Health Science HS an attractive option for students in the Meadowcreek cluster of Duluth who seek advanced degrees, and who want to at least investigate the possibility of a career in a field that faces massive shortages. Every Thursday, guest speakers will illuminate students about health science careers.

“That will really open their eyes,” says Mosley.

Despite the name, the EKG readout running through their logo, and the three registered nurses serving as teachers, McClure Health Science HS still is a high school at heart––though you’ll be hard-pressed to find many high schools that require all students to take CPR and first aid training. A wide array of electives is available including drama, chorus, band, audio-visual tech, and marketing. And yes, there will be sports, though they’ll be of the intramural variety.

Says Principal Mosley, “We have everything that another school has, just through the health science lens.”

So health and PE teachers are required to be exercise physiology majors and in place of team sports, there will be a concentration on “lifetime sports:” running clubs, yoga clubs, and an emphasis on wellness.

It came as a bit of a surprise to the administration, but McClure Health Science HS will open with a senior class. In all, the entire student body will number about 1,500 students.

While the gates to the health sciences field are open wide for students who avail themselves of all that is offered here, this newest option in Gwinnett County Public Schools is also an alternative for students looking for a different environment from which they came.

“It’s a total curriculum,” says Mosley, “So in theory, if a student wanted to come here and take maybe one or two health science courses, they could do that as well, and just embrace a small high school experience.”