Students explore health care careers virtually at the 2021 Spark! Challenge
Northwell Health’s Spark! Challenge: Healthcare Heroes, COVID Edition, has offered high school students an inside glimpse into health care careers each year since 2014 and this year was no different — except it was held virtually. The 2021 Spark! Challenge: Healthcare Heroes, COVID Edition, had 1,500 students from 48 schools across the tri-state area participate. The students interacted directly with Northwell team members for online educational career exploration sessions before attending a live virtual awards ceremony on April 15.
Students had the opportunity to participate in engaging, online educational sessions for 20 different healthcare career fields. One educational session, which profiled a career in Family Medicine, had students follow along with three case studies, taking patient vitals online and gaining an understanding of what goes into a strep test, as well as a COVID test. Some departments showed the proper way to put on and take off PPE.
And while fully transitioning this student event to be online, the Workforce Readiness team that hosts the Spark! Challenge saw an opportunity to make it even more impactful for students. “This year has been completely reinvented,” says Kathryn Graves, talent acquisition project manager on the Workforce Readiness team. “The word we used when planning for this year was flexibility. Whereas in the past students were limited to the one field trip they were matched to, this year students had 20 healthcare fields to choose from and learned about more than five careers each on average.”
After learning about these clinical and non-clinical professions, students chose one role to highlight, creating a poster and/or a video to celebrate the career, as well as to display what they’ve learned. Projects were then reviewed by Northwell judges and the winners were awarded a prize during the virtual awards ceremony.
During the virtual ceremony, students were able to view welcome messages from Northwell’s executive leadership, view and vote for their peers’ videos and posters, and attend a careers exhibit. This exhibit allowed students to learn about areas such as family medicine, the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, surgical careers, the Institute for Nursing, and Northwell’s Center for Learning and Innovation. Students even had the opportunity to meet our therapy dog Hazel over video.
After a full morning of interactive events, it was time for the highlight of the day: announcing the winners! Congratulations to the winners below and be sure to check out their amazing posters from this year’s event.
2021 Spark! Challenge Winners:
Overall Poster Award – First Place: Valley Stream North High School
Overall Poster Award – Second Place: John Bowne High School
Overall Poster Award – Third Place: Hampton Bays High School
Overall Video Award – First Place: Baldwin High School
Overall Video Award – Second Place: Valley Stream North High School
Overall Video Award – Third Place: William Floyd High School
Overall Video Award – Honorable Mention: Sacred Heart Academy
Rookie Award: East Rockaway High School
Behind the Scene Heroes – Poster Award: Thomas A. Edison CTE High School
Clinical & Non-Clinical Professional Heroes – Poster Award: Baldwin High School
Frontline Heroes – NP, PA, & Family Medicine – Poster Award: Lindenhurst Sr. High School
Frontline Heroes – Emergency Medicine – Poster Award: Thomas A. Edison CTE High School
Employee/Facebook Favorite: Herricks High School & Kellenberg High School
Student Favorite: Video: Tottenville High School & Poster: Lindenhurst High School
Northwell Health’s Spark! Challenge is an annual program for high school students across the New York area that brings together educators, schools and lots of passionate Northwell team members. Students who participate in the Spark! Challenge have the opportunity to learn about careers directly from our team members, igniting their spark for healthcare careers. The Spark! Challenge plays a vital role in helping reach, engage and inspire tomorrow’s healthcare leaders.
With this year’s Spark! Challenge bigger than ever, approximately 1,000 students from more than 50 schools participated in hands-on site visits with Northwell team members across more than 81 departments, hospitals and facilities to have a immersive learning experience about healthcare careers. After their Northwell site visit, students are given the challenge to create a poster featuring one healthcare career they learned about and then present on that career as a team.
Meet the winners from this year’s poster competition below!
First Place: John F. Kennedy High School, Bellmore-Merrick
The students from John F. Kennedy High School, Bellmore-Merrick visited the trauma team at Cohen Children’s Medical Center and learned about an electroencephalogram (EEG) and how placement of sensors on the head produces outputs. They also met patients who have experienced head trauma, including one patient who has a 3-D printed skull. Students then visited the morgue to learn about the brain post-mortem.
After meeting with the team, the students chose to have their poster focus on the child life specialists who help make pediatric patients more comfortable during their hospital visit.
Second Place: Valley Stream South High School
When the students from Valley Stream South High School visited the Department of Family Medicine, they were presented with four simulated cases in Family Medicine. Working together as a team, students had to learn and decide how to care for patients such as a pediatric child in urgent care with a sore throat and an elderly patient who needed an ultrasound. Through these simulations, students left with a better understanding of the variety of cases a Family Medicine care team might see in one day.
These students chose to highlight doctors in their poster and showcase the diverse care they deliver to patients.
Third Place: Baldwin High School
Baldwin High School students spent the day with Northwell’s Corporate Business Development team to discover healthcare careers within business strategy. During the field trip, students were presented with the challenge to form a capital cost estimate for a physician practice based on an outline of a practice assessment. Using a previous example, the students worked through the capital process with a defined budget to discover how business strategy is used to improve the care our patients receive.
Their poster focused on the role of a practice transitioner who is using their knowledge to implement improvements in our practices.
Honorable Mention: Patchogue-Medford High School
Students at Patchogue-Medford High School learned that it takes talent to fill our health system with the right people in the right roles. After meeting with the Talent Acquisition team, they learned how to find candidates who embody the Northwell values from thousands of applicants through attracting, vetting and hiring candidates.
Choosing to highlight a healthcare recruiter, they wanted to showcase the integral role that Talent Acquisition plays in identifying top candidates who are “Made for this.”
Facebook Favorite: Great Neck South High School
Great Neck South High School students traveled to LIJ Forest Hills Hospital to learn about the innovation with healthcare. Arriving at the hospital, students took part in an interactive exercise with the Assistant Director of Environment of Care Compliance/Safety before being split into groups to learn about the different areas of care. The teams learned about safe patient handling, MRI Safety, Operating Room/Delivery Room, basic life support, and wound care. The day concluded through sharing the team’s career journeys.
For their poster, the students chose to highlight the career of an obstetrician and gynecologist. Winning the Facebook Favorite award means that their poster was voted on by hundreds of Northwell team members!
Rookie Poster Award: Plainedge High School
Plainview Hospital hosted the Plainedge High School students and taught them about all of the careers that exist within our Imaging Departments. After attending a lecture and receiving a tour, the students then scrubbed into a procedure in interventional radiology, where they used the ultrasound machines and spoke with team members.
Their poster showcased the role a nuclear radiologist plays within our hospital to help diagnose and treat patients.
Watch our video announcement of the winners below!
2019 Spark! Challenge Awards Ceremony. And the winners are…
Last week, more than 900 people including Northwell team members, faculty and 11th and 12th grade high school students from Long Island, Staten Island, Westchester and New York City gathered to participate in the 5th annual Spark! Challenge Awards Ceremony.
The Spark! Challenge offers high school students a unique opportunity to join one of the 74 participating Northwell departments for a day in the fall and learn hands-on about clinical and non-clinical healthcare careers from our team members. After the students’ Spark! visit, they were asked to design a poster that represents the career they learned about. This year students learned about careers such as:
Clinical Laboratory Specialist
Construction Project Manager
Hospital Executive Chef
Medical Simulation Tech
Patient Experience Director
Talent Sourcing Specialist
And so much more!
During the spring Awards Ceremony, students gave a two-minute presentation to Northwell’s senior executives and answered questions on one career they learned about during their site visit. Students were also able to test out their surgical skills with the da Vinci Xi Surgical System Robot, which is used in Northwell’s operating rooms for minimally invasive surgeries, play with therapy dogs and try their hand in a life-size Operation game.
After presentations, judges deliberated and more than $30,000 in prizes were awarded to the winners for student posters and presentations. We’re proud to announce that the winners of this year’s Spark! Challenge are….
Poster Awards (picked prior to the Awards Ceremony)
First Place: John F. Kennedy – Bellmore-Merrick- Glen Cove Hospital – Operating Room
Second Place: General Douglas MacArthur High School- Corporate Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO)
Third Place: Valley Stream Central High School- Orzac Center for Rehabilitation
Facebook Favorite Poster voted on by thousands of Northwell team members: Baldwin High School – LIJ Valley Stream – Operating Room
The Spark! Challenge: Educating high school students for future healthcare careers
The 5th annual Spark! Challenge was larger than ever with 74 Northwell teams, and 900 students participating throughout the year! Students from high schools across Long Island, Staten Island, Westchester and New York City were able to directly experience and explore the wide variety of careers available in healthcare. By connecting students, educators, and Northwell Health professionals, the Spark! Challenge is helping to reach, engage and inspire students to consider some traditional and non-traditional healthcare careers.
We talked to Northwell team members who hosted students at their sites, as well as the teachers of the visiting schools to hear how the Spark! Challenge makes an impact on our students.
Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) – North Campus
At Staten Island University Hospital’s (SIUH) North Campus, students from St. Joseph Hill Academy participated in a mock trauma with life-like mannequins. After exciting tours of the OR and ICU, students also had the opportunity to meet and talk with the surgical team.
Jennifer Pla, St. Joseph Hill Academy teacher, was impressed by the engagement the students had with the doctors and nurses, “It gave students insight into the ongoing education that is necessary for healthcare practitioners to keep their skills sharp and improve patient care. The hands-on activities in the simulation lab allowed students to learn firsthand how difficult and technical these life-saving skills are to perform correctly.”
“The mock trauma scenario provides the ED staff with necessary simulation drills and the students love the realness of the mannequin,” says Anne Marie McDonough, senior director of Rehab Services at SIUH, “Students had an in-depth opportunity to talk with the trauma surgery staff, and they asked some fabulous questions!”
Students from Mepham High School partnered with local EMS services for a demonstration of a distracted driver with an overturned vehicle. With help from the EMS team and Syosset staff, students extracted “patients” in a hands-on scenario, then toured the emergency department and ambulance.
“We had an amazing experience that started with a simulated car accident. The fire department actually cut a ‘driver’ out of the car and followed him through the emergency department,” says Peter Steckle, Mepham High School teacher. “Students got a chance to interact with doctors and healthcare professionals to perform tasks like casting and a laparoscopic procedure. It was an experience they will never forget.”
Debra Clifford, BSN, RN, MHA, director of Patient Care Services has participated in the Spark! Challenge at Syosset Hospital for the past three years, “The Spark! Challenge provides students an opportunity through hands-on simulation to learn about careers in healthcare and has opened pathways for students to volunteer with healthcare professionals, and pursue fields that they may not have previously considered.”
Plainview Hospital’s Spark! Challenge visit gave Bellmore-Merrick CHSD students an interactive experience in the Food & Nutrition Department. From culinary arts and menu design to clinical nutrition and planning, students received an introduction to the culinary world in healthcare before ending the day with a cooking competition.
“Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced,” says Michael DiGiovanni, CTE teacher and chef instructor at the Culinary Hospitality Applied Management Program (CHAMP) at Bellmore-Merrick CHSD, “The lessons that our students learned from the chef, cooks, and nutritionists at Northwell made their knowledge of culinary arts real and enticing. The Spark! Challenge experience demonstrated the enjoyment and sensibility of this ever-growing industry.”
Eric Sieden, director of Nutrition and Food Services at Glen Cove, Plainview and Syosset Hospitals agreed, “Our Food & Nutrition team was so excited to be able to host and share their experiences with the culinary students. Through their interactions with the cooking staff, students were able to see how Northwell is providing nutritious-restaurant quality meals to a population that deserves and appreciates it. When I was their age, the Spark! Challenge is something I would have loved and definitely benefited from.”
North Shore University Hospital
At North Shore University Hospital, students from Baldwin High School learned about all of the different career opportunities that exist within nutrition and culinary. Team members led them in a tour of the department before challenging them to cook a healthy meal.
Donna Prager, the Family and Consumer Science teacher at Baldwin High School says, “The Spark! Challenge provides an amazing opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a hospital atmosphere. Students have benefited from interacting with professionals in the culinary and nutrition fields and has helped many students solidify their anticipated career path.”
“The Spark! Challenge is always a great day for our team and the students. We all look forward each year to see the future of healthcare in these passionate students. They get so invested in the cook-off that we host each year,” says Michael Kiley, director of Nutrition and Dining Services at North Shore University Hospital, “It is so gratifying to hear a student determine their career by this program, and we have been fortunate enough to have students tell us that because of the Spark! program they made the decision to go to culinary school. What more can you ask for?”
Hear from our students on why they love the Spark! Challenge:
“The Spark! Challenge allowed me to see how medicine is progressing as new technologies are created. I now know that there are various fields throughout the medical profession which are necessary to be able to take care of patients including medical simulation technicians.”
Cayla CruzSt Joseph Hill Academy Student
“The Spark! Challenge was an eye opening experience that allowed me to expand my knowledge of the different aspects of the culinary field that I wish to pursue.”
Timothy SimsBaldwin High School Student
“The Spark! Challenge has taught me valuable lessons about not only the medical field but also teamwork. Every department comes together like a puzzle in order to create a perfect picture of healthcare. Without teams such as the sterilization unit, the scrub nurse would not be able to provide the proper instruments, which ultimately affects the surgeon. With this information, I do not only feel more prepared for the medical field, but also I am more eager to become a part of such an exciting and successful career.”
Megan PoserTottenville High School Student
“The Spark! Challenge at Staten Island University Hospital offered great exposure to students like myself who were not familiar with the field of medical simulation technology. My eyes have been opened to a new facet of medicine I would not have been introduced to otherwise and a new appreciation for professionals in this field.”
Hanna JonathanSt. Joseph Hill Academy Student
“My overall experience with Spark! has immensely impacted my future and specifically influenced my future career decision in surgery. Watching the entire OR staff contributing to the health of the patients made me realize that in the future, I would like to use my individual skills such as leadership and multitasking to contribute into saving my patients life”
Veronica RzeszutkoTottenville High School Students
“Scrubbing in and seeing a surgery was definitely a highlight of all the trips I have been to throughout the med tech program. This reinforced my motivation to be a member of the medical field and even caused me to consider a career as a CRNA. Also, touring the different departments was a great insight on how medical professionals work daily and utilize different technology. All in all I felt very privileged to be part of such a great opportunity.”
Sarah QuraishiTottenville High School Student
“Spending the day at Staten Island University Hospital was truly a great experience! From seeing the residents in action during their trauma rounds to intubating simulated patients, overall I enjoyed gaining knowledge and learning about the various specialties of the hospital.”
Gabrielle Garcia St. Joseph Hill Academy Student
“During the tour and workshop at the hospital, we were able to observe surgeries and shadow a variety of workers in the medical field and pay close attention to the responsibilities of different professions. This left a huge impact on me personally since it showed me that there’s more to the medical field than just being a doctor. There are vital roles in the medical field that most people don’t hear about and this challenge led me to discover such roles and research them. This helps me better understand the choices I make in my future in the medical field.”
Barthina GebrilTottenville High School Student
“I am extremely grateful to have been able to participate in the Spark! Challenge at Staten Island University Hospital. I was able to observe a trauma simulation conducted by the trauma team, as well as hear about different medical careers. I also got to work in the stimulation lab and practice intubating a patient, drilling for a vein, and putting a tourniquet on a patient.”
Chase CohenSt. Joseph Hill Academy Student
“I am very thankful for and enjoyed the experiences I have gained and the connections that I have made through the Spark! Challenge that I never would have made otherwise.”
Justin Brafman Baldwin High School Student
“My visit to Staten Island University Hospital was truly an eye-opening experience. Gaining insight from the different hospital perspectives, such as Simulation Technicians and Surgeons, broadened my knowledge about the many parts involved in running a medical center.”
Igniting the Spark!: Inspiring future healthcare leaders
This year marks the 5th annual Spark! Challenge created by the Northwell Health Workforce Readiness team and it’s on track to be bigger and better than ever. Unique to Northwell, the Spark! Challenge provides students and team members the opportunity to connect across our vast health care careers.
Programs are provided on-site in both clinical and non-clinical positions for the students to learn directly from our participants. These “Career Days” are followed by an awards ceremony where both student and employees can be rewarded for their activities. Dorothy Feldman, SVP, Chief Risk Officer is a shining example of successful employee involvement and has been a big supporter of the program for years.
A former teacher, Dorothy credits this career history as an influence on her desire to participate in the Spark! Challenge. “The Spark! Challenge gives us a chance to be involved in the communities we serve and to showcase the talent and opportunities at Northwell,” she says, “Having the students on-site has been a lot of fun and my team loves working with them.”
Getting the next generation involved with her risk management team is helping to innovate the way we educate students about health care careers opportunities they might not know much about. And to educate them that Northwell goes beyond just clinical positions. Dorothy says, “The Spark! Challenge has been a wonderful experience for the students that have attended as well as the Risk Management team. We’re able to teach the students and give them information on the variety of career opportunities in our health system outside of the clinical jobs.”
The Spark! Challenge helps students ignite new interest in STEM. By visiting different Northwell departments like the Risk Management team, students get a unique look at where their careers can take them from the employees themselves. These students are the future of our health system, and connecting with them early on is a high priority at Northwell Health.
Not to mention – it’s fun! “Team members enjoy the opportunity to tell the students about their journey at Northwell. For the 2018-2019 program, we are hoping to have even more team members involved.” With three years of experience, Dorothy’s also a great resource for Northwell employees starting the program at their location or participating for the first time. Her advice? “Over prepare! The kids can go through your material very quickly.”
“The Spark! Challenge is a wonderful way to excite students about the vast scope of clinical and non-clinical careers in health care.”
–Cheryl Davidson, Sr. Director of Workforce Readiness
It only takes a spark to light imaginations. For the past four years, that’s exactly what Northwell Health’s Spark! Challenge has done. This unique program teams local high school students with Northwell Health employees in order to:
Grow student interest in STEM health care related careers.
Build a pipeline of students to energize the future workforce.
Creates career awareness through exploration and experiential learning.
Provide an introduction to Northwell Health’s culture, values and mission.
Give teachers/school counselors insight into the scope of health care careers.
This year, 600 junior and senior high school students from 32 local schools participated in the Spark! Challenge. They were supported by 50 Northwell Health teams, representing careers in areas such as:
And MUCH more….
You can view the complete list of participating departments and careers here.
Engaging future healthcare leaders.
Through the Spark! Challenge, students were given the opportunity to preview clinical and/or non-clinical career paths through practical and engaging encounters with professionals in the field. After their visit to a Northwell facility they had two assignments:
Create an advertisement spotlighting one of the careers highlighted during their visit,, successfully connecting the job to one of Northwell Health’s values.
Share the career they explored through a two-minute presentation at the Spark! Challenge award celebration (with their student team).
“It was a privilege to participate. I was energized by the experience!”
–Deborah Schiff SVP and Executive Director, Ambulatory Strategy and Business Development
The envelope please…
The Spark! Challenge Award Ceremonies were held on April 12, 2018 at The Cradle of Aviation Musuem. Northwell Health’s EVP and Chief Operating Officer Mark Solazzo and Joseph Moscola, SVP and Chief People Officer awarded the prizes. In true Northwell Health fashion, Mark doubled the originally planned prize money and ended up awarding a total of $26,000 to the winning school teams. Congratulations to the winners:
Presentation Winners – $2,000 awarded to each school team
Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School
Valley Stream Central High School
Tottenville High School
Sacred Heart Academy
Presentation Honorable Mentions – $1,000 awarded to each school team
William Floyd High School
Baldwin High School
Tottenville High School
John F. Kennedy High School, Bellmore-Merrick School District
Amityville High School
Smithtown High School
First Place Winner: Glen Cove High School, $5,000 award
Second Place Winner: Lindenhurst Senior High School, $3,000 award
Third Place Winner John F. Kennedy High School, Bellmore-Merrick School District $2,000 award
Northwell Health is grateful to all of the student participants as well as the Northwell Health employees who donated their time to make this year’s Spark! Challenge such a success. Next year promises to be even better!
“Kudos, to the Spark! Challenge winners and every participant. You each brought your whole self to the Challenge – not only your knowledge and expertise but also your enthusiasm and appreciation for our values. Stay true to who you are, keep your convictions, be courageous and you will become an authentic leader!”
— Tom Thornton – SVP, Northwell Ventures
FIRST PLACE – Glen Cove High School
SECOND PLACE – Lindenhurst Senior High School
THIRD PLACE – John F. Kennedy High School, Bellmore-Merrick
Earlier this year over 700 junior and senior high school students visited 50+ Northwell Health sites and service lines to learn about STEM careers as part of our 3rd Annual Spark! Challenge created by the Workforce Readiness team. During their visit students were exposed to a diverse set of clinical and non-clinical career opportunities available within the health care industry by hands-on learning “Career Days”. Students were then asked to collaborate with their team to create a career advertisement and a two minute career presentation to showcase at our Awards Ceremony.
“I don’t know how we did it, but we coordinated 8+ teams of students from Bellmore-Merrick JFK to cook a full Thanksgiving Day feast under one hour,” shares North Shore University Hospital’s head chef, Mike Kiley. “Staff from Food & Nutrition coached the students, while pushing their competitive buttons with a holiday cook-off. Not only did the teens have fun, they learned nutritional tips and how to better work as a team.”
Last week students, teachers and Northwell Health employees and executives filled the Cradle of Aviation for the Award Ceremony and over 45 schools presented on their chosen careers from their visit. The day was filled with interactive workshops and activities from various departments that included, 3D bioprinting, a CEMS simulator, Culture of Care workshop, Bioelectronic Medicine, telemedicine, a robotic surgery simulator and more.
As an organization we are always focused on educating our communities at all ages and the Workforce Readiness team does this by innovating the way we interact with next generation professionals about vast health care careers. “There’s no industry like health care. Besides pursuing a career as a doctor or a nurse, you can also be an engineer, a chef, an accountant, a computer tech, a transporter – well the list goes on,” said President and CEO, Michael Dowling.
Everyone’s a Winner
During the awards ceremony, students and Northwell Health employees received monetary awards and myReward points respectively for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place on their presentation and careers poster. In true form, our President and CEO Michael Dowling tripled the award bucket just moments before the winners were announced.
In total, over $12,000 in prize money went to students from Tottenville High School, Sacred Heart Academy, Valley Central High School and Glen Cove High School for their clarity, enthusiasm, and content in the Presentation Award category. We also awarded over $14,000 in prize money to students from Amityville High School, Baldwin High School, Bellmore-Merrick JFK High School, and Valley Stream Central High School for their creativity in the Poster Award category.
“We have doubled our participation from both students and Northwell Health sites since last year,” says Lauren Pearson, Manager, Workforce Readiness. “What a truly amazing and inspiring day. I am so grateful to work here, doing a job I love, surrounded by amazing people and leadership.”
Promoting STEM Careers
With STEM careers on the rise, educating students early on is a high priority at Northwell Health. One of the many goals throughout the Spark! Challenge is to ignite student’s interest in the STEM careers we have throughout our health system. With each unique site/service line visit, these students received an in-depth look as to the many clinical and non-clinical career paths we have available. Our employees know these students will be our next leaders and want to show them the endless opportunities a career in health care can provide for them, and support them in their journey.
In the words of Michael Dowling, “Never believe you can’t do something. When you get up each day, try, and then perfect that process and move forward again. Don’t be stagnant. Always keep moving. There is no limit to your success.”
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