Demopolis will get health care high school

Published 12:17 pm Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Alabama is embarking on an innovative journey as it embraces training high school students to focus on the health care industry.

By the fall of 2026, the Alabama School of Healthcare Science will open to high school students from ninth and 10th grade who are interested in focusing on a broad range of health care fields.

The high school will be open to students from throughout the state and will be a residential school like the Alabama School of Cyber Technology & Engineering in Huntsville, Alabama School of Math & Science in Mobile and Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham.

Email newsletter signup

“I want to thank Gov. Kay Ivey and all the legislators who supported this effort. Demopolis is ready to make you proud,” Alabama Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro said.

This school will be located next to Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital, allowing students to have classroom and practical experience daily.

Majd Zayzafoon, MD, PhD, MBA, is the founding director of ASHS Strategic Initiatives and Planning, and he is a professor and Assistant Dean of the Heersink School of Medicine at UAB. Zayzafoon, who spent years developing the proposal for ASHS, said he is ecstatic about the school’s construction.

“ASHS in Demopolis is not just about bricks and mortar; it’s about building a future where healthcare excellence thrives in rural communities all over the State of Alabama. We’re laying the foundation for a school that will empower students with the skills and passion to transform lives,” Zayzafoon said. “Our journey is far from over; it’s a collaborative effort requiring strong commitment from all Alabamians. Together, we’ll ensure that ASHS realizes its full potential, shaping a brighter tomorrow for healthcare in our state.”

As the final legislative steps are completed, Demopolis Mayor Woody Collins said the people of his city are ready and able to begin the work required before the school opens in 2026.

“At the beginning of this process, our city committed to deeding the land for the school to the ASHS Foundation, and we are thrilled to honor our word,” Collins said. “We also know our city will soon be the home to new staff members and students of this school, and we will keep their needs top-of-mind in every decision we make about the growth of Demopolis.”

The site of the new school is adjacent to Whitfield Regional Hospital, a member of the UAB Health System, which will serve as a learning lab for the students of ASHS. Douglas Brewer, CEO of the hospital, said he knows approval of this school will create a new era of rural healthcare in the region.

“We are thrilled with this opportunity for so many reasons,” Brewer said. “While we’ll get to help shape the future of Alabama’s healthcare workforce in our facility, this school also will attract wonderful people who can contribute to our level of care. Having the opportunity to train future healthcare workers is humbling, and we do not discount the level of trust placed in our hospital and our city.”

The students will graduate with certificates in various programs related to science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine that will address the chronic health care workforce shortage in Alabama. Graduates will have the ability to immediately enter the workforce, while others will build a strong foundation for advanced studies at both two-and- four-year colleges and technical schools.

The initial legislative appropriation will be $15 million and will allow the school to open in the fall of 2026 with approximately 400 ninth and 10th graders in the first year and then add an additional grade each year.

“While the school is under construction, we will partner with the University of West Alabama to house students,” Singleton said. “We have matching dollars that will come from private foundations to help with the costs and construction.”

Ivey commended Singleton along with Sen. Bobby Singleton, Rep. Cynthia Almond, Sen. Gerald Allen, Rep. A.J. McCampbell, Pro Tem Greg Reed, Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter and members of the Legislature who supported this important project.

“The Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences is yet another way our state is leading the nation in innovative education solutions,” Ivey said. “I also greatly appreciate the community support from Demopolis and for the support of healthcare systems and hospitals across our state. Investing in the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences is an investment in education, our healthcare workforce and the future of Alabama.”

The school will be in Marengo County, a growing community that is poised to support the needs of the school. There is also a partnership in place with The University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Additionally, the school may also offer short courses, workshops, seminars, weekend instructional programs and other innovative programs to students not enrolled as full-time students in the school.