Success Stories

The Southside Health Education Foundation (SHEF) has develop a health careers pipeline program—Southside Health Careers Experiential Learning Program (Health-CEL)—for students from 16 to 20 years of age. Under the leadership of SHEF, area hospitals, health care providers, colleges and universities partner to support this 40+ hour program which provides students with experiential learning.

Project Goal

In its first year, 40 students are introduced to health careers and current practitioners at area hospitals, learn the requirements for specific career paths, become familiar with hospital and post-secondary educational campuses, learn about educational financial resources and map a personal health career pathway. Each activity is designed to help students cultivate the intellectual potential and social capital needed to pursue education and find career success in health care positions in Southside Virginia. Goal of the Health-CEL program is to implement a community response to identify, educate, recruit and retain a quality health care workforce from Southside Virginia, serving Southside Virginia. This is the Southside region’s first collaborative partnership to address high poverty, poor educational attainment and chronic disease levels.

Current Status

Health-CEL staff members are working to become a recognized chapter of the Boy Scouts Exploring program. This partnership provides liability insurance coverage for Task Force Committee members and program participants, as well as adult training in youth protection. The Health-CEL program launched its first Open House to recruit students from eleven regional high schools and three colleges on August 15th.

Measuring the Impact

The first of ten "Health Career Nights" kicked off at Virginia State University (VSU) on September 10, 2013 as part of the Southside Health Careers Exploring Program. Program Manager, Karen Cameron, FACHE, opened the evening with an interactive quiz on health jobs, educational requirements and average salaries. Enrolled students toured classrooms guided by VSU faculty led by Dr. Karen Faison, Director of the VSU Nursing Program, and Nicole Brown, Coordinator of Nursing Simulation for the university. Following lessons in approved methods of hand washing, students were introduced to medical simulator patients. Each simulator patient is programed to produce vital signs indicating a myriad of health related issues and the proper treatment of patients.

The second "Health Career Night" took place on October 8, 2013, at Southside Regional Medical Center. Students, parents and VHWDA staff learned about diagnostic imaging and labor and delivery careers from rad techs and nurses. Additional "Health Career Nights" will meet on the second Tuesday of each month through June, 2014, at regional hospitals and health care practices. For additional information please contact Karen Cameron at

  • November 5, 2013 - Appomattox Health and Wellness Center - "A Healthy You and with a Healthy Smile: Experiencing Life as a Physician or Dentist"
  • December 10, 2013 - Southside Virginia Emergency Crew - "Being a First Responder in a 911 Emergency"
  • January 14, 2014 - Poplar Springs Psychiatric Hospital - "Exploring Careers in Behavioral Health"
  • February 11, 2014 - Health South Rehabilitation Hospital of Petersburg - "Learning about Careers in Physical Medicine Rehabilitation"
  • March 11, 2014 - John Randolph Medical Center - "Beyond the Physician and the Nurse: Everything Else that Supports Patient Care at the Hospital"
  • April 8, 2014 - John Tyler Community College, Johnston-Willis Campus - "Becoming a Nurse"
  • May 13, 2014 - Colonial Heights Health Care & Rehabilitation Center - "Exploring Careers in Long-Term Care"
  • June 10, 2014 - Richard Bland College - "Financing Your Education"

Working Together to Engage the Community

The Health-CEL program is a true regional collaboration. Under leadership of Southside Health Education Foundation, Task Force members represent Crater Community Hospice, Southside Regional Medical Center, Virginia State University, SRMC Professional Schools and John Tyler Community College. Additional community involvement includes recruitment efforts with guidance counselors at 11 regional high schools and three colleges (John Tyler Community College, Richard Bland College and Virginia State University) and SRMC Professional School. The Petersburg Department of Economic Development has donated the use of the Union Train Station for the purpose of Open Houses. Additional volunteers committed to hosting one of the ten interactive Health Career Nights include John Randolph Medical Center, Southside Emergency Crew, Appomattox Area Health and Wellness Center, Poplar Springs Hospital, Dunlop House, Colonial Heights Medical Center, and Health South Rehabilitation Hospital.

Southside Health Education Foundation Leadership:

Find Local Support

Blue Ridge Region AHEC – Shenandoah Valley

Capital Region AHEC – Richmond Metro and surrounding areas

Eastern Virginia Region AHEC – Southeast Virginia and Peninsula

Northern Virginia Region AHEC – Northern Virginia

Rappahannock Region AHEC – Northern Neck, Fredericksburg, and Middle Peninsula

South Central Region AHEC – Lynchburg, Danville, and surrounding area

Southside Region AHEC – South of Richmond

Southwest Virginia Region AHEC – Roanoke Valley and West