OhioHealth removes barrier for Rushmore Academy students seeking employment

Dr. Columber of OhioHealth Marion examines a student in the Wellness on Wheels mobile unit at Rushmore Academy.

Dr. Columber examines a student in the Wellness on Wheels mobile unit at Rushmore Academy.

A casual conversation during their kids’ soccer practice between Dr. Heather Columber, OhioHealth family physician, and Todd Schneider, assistant director of Rushmore Academy, resulted in a win for the entire community.

During their bleacher talk, Schneider expressed his concerns to Dr. Columber about a barrier in the employment program that Rushmore has set up with Goodwill Industries.  The program allows Rushmore student to gain employment through Goodwill Industries.

“The employment opportunities are available with places like KBR construction, Marion City Schools, the Parks Department, and Proscape Lawn and Landscaping Services. The jobs are numerous and the partnership is truly a benefit to the community, but most importantly, to the kids,” said Schneider.

Students must have a physical examination in order to participate in the employment program. Because of this requirement, many students who could participate, were opting out.

Schneider explained, “Students either can’t afford to go get them, do not have transportation, or just don’t take the time.”

As Schneider and Dr. Columber discussed the dilemma, she was troubled and wanted to help.

She called upon her physician peers and other professionals in the OhioHealth system and found that she was not alone in her desire to help the students at Rushmore Academy.

With a few phone calls and a couple of meetings, a team from OhioHealth was formed to perform the physicals — right on site. The team included Dr. Columber, Dr. Mrunal Shah, and Physician Assistant, Corey McMurray from Marion, as well as a driver and two nurses from OhioHealth’s mobile unit, Wellness on Wheels (WOW).

To provide onsite care for students, Wellness on Wheels made a trip to Rushmore Academy so students didn’t have to travel.  The mobile unit is a full service, two exam room, 18 wheel doctor’s office. All of this, free to more than 30 students who took advantage of the opportunity.

“When I called on my colleagues at OhioHealth, I never dreamed that we would have the capabilities to organize an event like this — where students would have access to a physical examination without leaving the school,” Dr. Columber said. “It’s a great feeling to know that you work for an organization that will do what it takes to meet the healthcare needs of the communities we serve,” she added.

Because of the need and because of the success of this event, Rushmore Academy and OhioHealth professionals agreed that this is a small, trial run for what they hope to be a lasting, annual partnership.

“Partnerships like this are happening often in the Marion community and OhioHealth is happy to be a part of it,” said Dr. Mrunal Shah, vice president medical affairs at OhioHealth Marion.

The OhioHealth Wellness on Wheels (WOW) program was developed in 1993 as the Project to Reduce Infant Mortality (PRIM). This program provides services to pregnant women ages 12 to 44 in communities identified to have high infant mortality rates. As of January 2010, more than 3,000 women have been served with best practice birth outcomes. WOW also serves schools in central Ohio area with regular clinics.

Joe Henkel, education support provider at Rushmore Academy, gave a little bit of background on the employment of Rushmore students.

“We currently have 77 students placed through the Goodwill job placement program and with today’s physicals, that number will surely increase,” he said.  He went on to explain that they use the Goodwill program for the 15-18 year old students to teach them soft skills, responsibility, and life lessons to prepare them for long-term future employment.  Students from 18-21 years old are placed in 59 other employment situations outside of the Goodwill program.

“We consider this group to be in a career path to secure their economic future,” he added.

Henkel, Schneider and Dr. Columber are all Marion Harding graduates and are thrilled to be part of a collaborative effort for Rushmore students to succeed.

Dr. Columber expressed the event well by saying, “Being part of a collaboration between OhioHealth and Rushmore Academy to help students, so that they can change their path and work to make a better footprint for themselves in Marion, was more fulfilling than words can express. This is why I came back home. This is why I am Marion proud. This is why I believe in WE.”

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