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REED Summit connects students with healthcare industry professionals

The REED Summit connected prospective and current college students who want to work in the healthcare industry with an array of career opportunities and industry professionals.

As a University of North Georgia (UNG) freshman, Halee Stone knows she wants to work in the health care field, but is not sure which profession to pursue within the industry.

To find a possible answer, the Ellijay, Georgia, resident attended the inaugural Regional Education and Economic Development (REED) Summit at the Convocation Center on UNG's Dahlonega Campus. Presented in partnership with Northeast Georgia Health System, the REED Summit connected prospective and current college students who want to work in the healthcare industry with an array of career opportunities in that field and exposed them to educational pathways and industry professionals.

That worked for Stone. She met with a representative from Avita Community Partners, which have facilities in Dahlonega and Gainesville, Georgia. Avita is a resource for individuals and families in northeast Georgia experiencing the disabling effects of mental illness, developmental disabilities and addictive diseases. Its goal is to assist in the development of safe, stable and meaningful lives for all.

Stone said she mentioned her desire to possibly earn a degree in music therapy. Allan Harden, human resources director for Avita, explained one of his licensed counselors has incorporated music therapy into a treatment. It was music to Stone's ears.

"I thought 'Wow!' this is the perfect information that I need to hear," she said. "So coming (to the REED Summit) definitely will help me narrow down my career options."

Stone was not alone. UNG freshman Pedro Antonio Perez from Gainesville has his doubts about majoring in nursing.

"I want to find if another career in the medical field fits me as a bilingual person," he said.

Perez got a possible lead from a vendor, who was part of the Resource Fair, which allowed attendees to meet with representatives of several companies and programs.

"They told me how I can work with patients and help them find the resources they need," he said.

UNG students were not the only students who benefited from the REED Summit. Officers in Lumpkin County High School's HOSA, formerly known as Health Occupations Students of America, attended.

"I am interested in the business side of the medical field or the entrepreneur side," said Trey Wilks, a 16-year-old from Lumpkin County. "I think this could open my eyes to those possibilities."

His classmate Olivia Gilleland was surprised by one thing in particular.

"I didn't realize how big (the healthcare field) was within the government," she said.

Vendors and sponsors also profited from the summit. Many networked with each other, including Aeon Global Health.

"We had a lot of interest in our pharmacogenomics," said Salimah Shiraj Amirali, director of corporate communications and brand strategy for Aeon Global Health.

In layman's terms, pharmacogenomics helps determine how a particular medication metabolizes in a person's body.

"So we test to see if that particular drug works for you," Amirali said.

The REED Summit also included speakers from the private and public healthcare industry as well as panel discussions from experts. For example, Joel Simon, executive vice president from the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, spoke during the lunch break about abilities to connect industry with partners and students for the public's well-being.

"We work with communities and groups like this to try and develop a plan that is bigger and better," he said.

Other speakers and panelists include Frank Berry, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health; Ben Hames, deputy commissioner of workforce for the Georgia Department of Economic Development and Amy Carter, deputy commissioner of rural Georgia for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Kay Keller, director of economic development and community engagement at UNG, was very pleased with the turnout and attendee participation.

"With the REED Summit being successful this year, we plan to do another one next year on a different industry that has an important economic impact in northeast Georgia," she said.

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