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Folsom Lake College and Sutter Health Announce Partnership

June 6, 2024

Photo of Allied Health students and a doctor

Sutter Health is launching a new initiative, NextGen Scholars, to provide educational opportunities and career pathways in healthcare for high school students from Title 1 schools and diverse backgrounds—with a goal of training 5,000 youth by 2030 as part of the program. Sutter is investing $1.7 million in Folsom Lake College as a pilot and plans to extend the program to other schools in the Los Rios Community College District and others across its Northern California and Central Coast footprint in the coming years.

"We see this collaboration as a way to eliminate some of the barriers that can get in the way of meaningful employment in the healthcare sector, address workforce needs, and ultimately enhance health outcomes across our communities," said Keri Thomas, vice president of external affairs at Sutter Health. "The potential for this program is limitless. We believe it can be replicated and scaled across the state to have even a greater positive impact."

For the Folsom Lake College pilot, high school students from Cordova High School in Rancho Cordova will identify a healthcare career they wish to pursue, attend classes, obtain work experience at Sutter care facilities, and work toward a community college certificate in that field. Certificates being explored include those for certified nursing assistants, emergency medical technicians, radiology technicians, and advanced imaging technicians. Future certification offerings that are being explored include those for medical assistants and surgical technicians. Upon earning certification, graduates will have the chance to apply for jobs within Sutter Health and other local healthcare organizations.

Each NextGen student scholar will receive $1,000 per term for up to three terms annually. The stipends will help the students focus on their studies and career development by reducing the need to work outside the program. Enhanced academic support services will also be available to NextGen student scholars. Beyond potential employment, Sutter Health and other partnering healthcare institutions will offer practical training opportunities as well as mentorship and networking opportunities.

"Creating this hub of regional healthcare education is perfectly aligned with Folsom Lake College’s mission to support and educate our region’s workforce," said Dr. Art Pimentel, president of Folsom Lake College. "This program supports workforce development and demonstrates how Folsom Lake College and all four Los Rios colleges are partnering to innovate in ways that meet the needs of employers like Sutter Health. It also focuses supports for students of color, low-income students, and first-generation college students, populations too often left behind when we talk about regional economic development. NextGen scholars will now have an important head start on their education and careers, which can help transform the lives of students and families."

Sutter Health’s investment will also help support upgrades to Folsom Lake College’s new health education hub in Rancho Cordova to create a state-of-the-art learning environment. It will help secure advanced equipment such as simulators, X-ray machines and hospital beds that support enhanced hands-on training opportunities.

The first cohort of students is expected to begin in the fall of 2024. In the meantime, the Los Rios Community College District and Sutter Health will begin the process to develop curriculum. Recruitment, hiring and training faculty, career case managers, and support staff will follow.

"We have a critical need in California for more health care professionals, especially those who reflect the diversity of our communities," said Warner Thomas, Sutter Health president and CEO. "The NextGen Scholars Program is another way Sutter Health is working to meet that need by training the next generation of caregivers."

"This program offers a key opportunity to not just pursue a job in healthcare with great benefits. It sets people on a path toward a fulfilling career that can change their lives as well as the lives of patients," said Keri Thomas. "People can join a healthcare organization in one capacity and then move into another. That first job is the first step in several possible directions."

Sutter Health is now on pace to become the largest community-based healthcare training institution in Northern California thanks to its robust plans to create new academic partnerships and expand medical education and clinical education programs. It will grow its graduate medical education footprint to train and graduate 1,000 resident and fellow physicians each year by 2030, and each year thereafter, and build on its extensive training in pharmacy, nursing, internships, and administrative training.

This is the latest collaboration between Sutter Health and the Los Rios Community College District. In 2019, Sutter Health contributed $512,500 over five years toward Promise Scholarships, helping over 900 low-income students with flexible scholarships to remove financial obstacles like textbooks and living expenses that are not typically covered by existing aid programs. The funds built on the state’s two-year California College Promise Program, which guarantees free tuition for all first-time, full-time California community college students.