A new two-year program at the Hilliard City Schools McVey Innovative Learning Center is providing training for students seeking careers in the medical field.

A new two-year program at the Hilliard City Schools McVey Innovative Learning Center is providing training for students seeking careers in the medical field.

Academy MD is open to juniors and seniors and provides an opportunity to earn college credits.

"The first year of the program centers on the foundation of health care (and) the second year centers on connecting our students with internships and mentoring opportunities," said Mike McDonough, director of secondary education for Hilliard City Schools.

Although designed as a two-year program, seniors are enrolled in Academy MD this year but they will not be able to take advantage of the second-year internship opportunities.

"We wanted the program to be open to all students who were interested," McDonough said.

The program was made possible through a Straight A grant of $917,475 from the Ohio Department of Education. Columbus State Community College and Tolles Career and Technical Center are partners in the program.

The funds were used to renovate part of the annex building at the McVey Innovative Learning Center, formerly the district's administration offices.

Aside from lectures in a traditional classroom setting, students in Academy MD will work in a simulated hospital environment that includes beds with full-sized mannequins in a room with a centralized work station.

The instructor of Academy MD is Dr. Jae Cookson, who left a residency at a hospital in Cleveland to accept the job at Academy MD.

Cookson's husband, an administrator at Hilliard schools, suggested the opportunity, she said.

"I was away from my family (for my residency at Case Medical Center) but also saw this as a unique opportunity," said Cookson, who has a doctorate from the University of Toledo.

She said the first year focuses on general medical knowledge.

"The first year of the program centers on medical and health technology, learning about the foundation of America's health-care system, as well as anatomy and pharmacology," Cookson said. "We also practice lab techniques such as phlebotomy (drawing blood)."

The second year will focus on mentorships and internships.

"Our students will be out in the field working," Cookson said.

Students in Academy MD can earn such credentials as certified medical administrative assistant, clinical medical assistant, electronic health-records specialist, phlebotomist lab technician and EKG technician.

Students also can have dual enrollment at Columbus State Community College while enrolled at Academy MD.

"It's fantastic what the (Straight A grant) has allowed (Hilliard) to provide," Cookson said.

Sixty juniors and seniors are enrolled in the program, including 10 from South-Western City Schools.

The program also is available to students from Grandview Heights and Upper Arlington schools but none applied for it this year, McDonough said.

Among the students in Academy MD are Darby High School senior Cassidy Conti and Darby junior Michael Zapotosky.

"I'm excited to be able to work in a lab and get a real-life experience," Conti said. "I get a head start with college and I'll know for sure if this is what I want to do. I want to help people."

Zapotosky said he wants to be an athletics trainer.

After sustaining a whiplash injury playing ice hockey, Zapotosky said, he was intrigued by the technical side of his rehabilitation.

"I thought it was cool and asked a lot of questions about (rehabilitation)," Zapotosky.

He said he hopes to have a career in preventing and treating hockey-specific injuries.