Palo Alto College requests to explore new programs in healthcare

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The PVC approves first step and the explanatory process begins.

By Bismarck D. Andino

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

Palo Alto College will explore four health care programs — health care administration, community paramedicine, dental hygiene and an extended campus site for this college’s nursing program.

“These programs are aimed at providing access to individuals throughout San Antonio and Bexar County with a focus in South San Antonio,” President Michael Flores said Oct. 4 in an interview.

Two programs, health care administration and community paramedicine, would be implemented in fall 2017. Dental hygiene and nursing would begin in fall 2018.

Community paramedicine is an extended version of the emergency medical services degree program this college offers. Community paramedicine addresses the health care needs of the community as well as providing services to patients in rural areas who lack access to primary care.

Flores said before approval, the exploration involves a series of steps.

First, a proposal for consideration must be submitted to the College Curriculum Council at Palo Alto. Second, the college will convene an advisory committee of experts to offer feedback for each program. Third, the college will draft a curriculum, facilities layout, equipment list and business plan.

Dr. Robert Vela, president of this college, said this a progression in the right direction because there’s a shortage of nurses, and it’s more convenient for students who live on the South Side of the city.

“It’s a very natural thing for students who participate in our dental assisting and would want to become a dental hygienist … it’s not a duplication, but a progression in that particular field,” Vela said. “There’s such a shortage in nurses citywide, so we want to ensure that students from all parts of the community have access if they want to become nurses.”

According to the American Dental Association, dental hygienist is one of the 30 fastest growing occupations. A hygienist performs patient screening procedures, removes calculus and plaque, applies fluoride and sealants to the teeth, and also teaches patients how to practice oral hygiene to maintain an oral health.

Dental assisting instead provides aid to dentists by performing office tasks such as scheduling appointments, answering the phone, billing and ordering supplies. Also, they sterilize medical instruments, ask for patients’ medical history and follow up with patients after surgery.

The Ranger tried to contact Stella Lovato, chair of allied health, but she was unavailable for an interview.

Vela recognized that it would be more convenient for students to stay on the South Side and emphasized that the concept is to create a satellite center or an access point at Palo Alto, such as the one in Kerrville, where residents have access to this college’s nursing training.

“If you provide those opportunities to students, the likelihood of being successful is very high,” he said.

“From Dr. Flores’ vantage point and mine, we have an agreement that this is great for our community, and often in time it’s important to partner so that we are not duplicating, but actually providing a pathway for our students to get even better credentials and better degrees that they may be interested in.”

Although Palo Alto and this college are committed to starting these programs, Vela said the plan still needs to go through the internal process for approval, and that the district would have to have a successful bond election to build a facility to offer the proposed technical programs.

At a retreat June 29, district administrators presented to Alamo Colleges trustees a plan proposing a $450 million bond election for May.

The total project proposed for Palo Alto is estimated at $81 million, of which $6 million would be destined to science lab renovations in Brazos Hall.

The renovation would address equipment, space layouts, exhaust/HVAC upgrades, and support spaces.

The board has not voted yet on whether to call for a bond election.

Vela also anticipates that after January, things could speed up.

“So once they approve it and approve the bond and how it’s structured for Palo Alto, then we would have to meet with each other’s programs to align them.”

Vela said these programs also require approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Flores plans to meet with this college’s representatives this month to discuss the integration of this plan with this college’s nursing program as well as the alignment of this college’s dental assisting program with the proposed dental hygiene program.

The outcomes of these meetings will determine the course this initiative will take, Flores said.

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