SPRINGFIELD - Julitza Jimenez has dreamed of being a pediatrician ever since she was a little girl with asthma and spent countless days in hospitals.
Jimenez, 20, is poor, Hispanic, and comes from an urban school district. In many places, those circumstances would have made it almost impossible for her to get the training or course work needed to pursue a career in medicine.
But not in Springfield, where BayState Health began an initiative three years ago with the city's public schools to offer supplemental math and science classes, labs, and medical internships.
Jimenez has used the Springfield-BayState Educational Partnership to become a certified nurse's assistant.
"The hospital encouraged me to come up here and do different programs that I didn't know about," she said. "My teacher and the hospital, they helped me a lot."
While blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians make up more than 25 percent of the US population, a 2004 federal study found that only 9 percent of the nation's nurses, 6 percent of its physicians, and 5 percent of dentists come from these minority groups.
The Sullivan Commission study cited education as a major barrier between minorities and those medical careers.
That is what BayState was finding in Springfield. The city has an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent, yet the hospital had unfilled jobs because it could not get qualified workers. Instead of complaining that the schools were not doing their job, hospital officials met with school officials and came up with the idea for the partnership.