As the US population ages, health care workforce shortages are projected in surgery, medicine, and nursing. We describe an outreach program aimed at exposing high school students to health care as a career choice while emphasizing science courses and prevention of tobacco use. High school students were invited to participate in CHEST Watch, a structured educational program based on thoracic pathology. Before students attended the program, parental consent was collected. Students engaged in a discussion with multiple professionals (physicians, nurses, smoking cessation counselors, social workers, basic science researchers) who presented their personal motivation and information about the corresponding career. Participants then observed a lung cancer surgery. A strong anti-tobacco message was emphasized throughout. Before and after the event, the participants completed anonymous opinion surveys which queried their interest in science, health care careers, and tobacco use. The Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel (CMH) test was used for trend analysis. A total of 4,400 students from 84 schools attended CHEST Watch over 15 years. A significant increase in the students’ interest in health care careers and science courses (p-value 0.0001) and a significant decrease in tobacco use interest (p-value 0.0001) were observed. Overall, feedback was strongly positive and very popular within the school systems. The CHEST Watch program is an innovative approach intended to recruit youth into health care careers to address projected future shortages in the workforce. Furthermore, the participants’ experience resulted in an increasingly positive attitude towards personal health and a decreased interest in use of tobacco products.
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