Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan will lead the state’s first Virtual Business and Education Summit, hosted by Floyd County Schools’ College and Career Academy on Dec. 1.

Business, industry, and community leaders from across Georgia, along with state and local educators, will examine how rapidly changing technology is affecting the training of young healthcare professionals and the delivery of healthcare.

FC-CCA Director Eric Waters said the local schools have an excellent partnership with local health care providers such as Harbin Clinic, Floyd Medical Center and Redmond Regional Medical Center.

“We develop our curriculum to meet their needs,” Waters said. “That includes making changes with respect to technology and healthcare provision.”

Redmond CEO John Quinlivan credits technology with the rapid response to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.

“I think another good example is what we’ve seen with Matt McClain’s involvement and our support through the HCA Research Institute to develop convalescent plasma,” Quinlivan said. “We’ve done things much more rapidly than we’ve ever done it before. That speaks to where we’ve come with technology.”

The Floyd County College and Career Academy typically has close to 300 students enrolled in four different healthcare pathways.

“We have around 60 students in internships with local healthcare providers,” Waters said.

Northwest Georgia District Public Health Director Dr. Gary Voccio will open the virtual program with an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in this part of the state.

Voccio’s presentation will be followed by a panel discussion with medical officials and information technology experts from FMC, Redmond and Harbin. The next session will highlight the various internship programs that are available to students.

“That will be the best session,” Waters said.

Healthcare legislation and innovation will be the next session, led by Waters and Georgia Northwestern Technical College President Heidi Popham. It will feature insights from Voccio, Quinlivan, state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler of Rome, FMC’s CEO Kurt Stuenkel and Kenna Stock, CEO at Harbin Clinic.

Duncan and Technical College System Commissioner Greg Dozier will wrap up the day.

Waters said his staff has had to integrate more information about telemedicine and virtual delivery of healthcare in recent years.

“We’ve also seen that some of our computer programming pathways are expressing more interest in the healthcare arena,” he said. “They’re visualizing and realizing that they are gaining skills that can be used in the healthcare arena.”

Waters also said students in the robotics and engineering program at the FC-CCA are recognizing that some of their skill sets could lead to careers in medical biotechnology.

Marc Wetherington, a student at FC-CCA, said he is interested in medical machinery such as Intense Pulsed Light lasers, dialysis machines, pacemakers and the like.

“The technology that we learn here is very applicable to medical fields,” Wetherington said.

Carrie Reese is thinking about becoming a radiation oncologist.

“That career wouldn’t even exist without the fundamental components of engineering combined with medicine,” Reese said.

Eli Abdou, another student, said he’s always been interested in technology and, as he’s grown older, has become more interested in helping people through a career in healthcare.

“I’ve decided that I want to focus on biotechnology as a major in college and use technology to advance medicine,” Abdou said. He said he is fascinated by the potential for 3D organs.

Kevin van der Horn, an instructor at FC-CCA, said that students are frequently examining cross functionality and multidisciplinary projects in the robotics and engineering program.

Misty Tucker, who heads the Rome City Schools College and Career Academy, said the city program offers three pathways in healthcare and will be adding a fourth next year.

“We will be adding phlebotomy, just based on community need and student interest,” Tucker said.

She said FMC has been particularly helpful in providing equipment for students in the healthcare curriculum.

“Our healthcare pathways are industry-certified,” Tucker said. “To do that you have to have industry-approved equipment, and much of that is based in technology because that is where our future careers are.”

The new Rome College and Career Academy building is slated to open about a week after the students return from the Christmas break.

Quinlivan said use of robotics is becoming much more common across a broad spectrum of healthcare procedures. Redmond has been utilizing the robotic NAVIO Surgical System for both partial and total knee replacement surgery.

Floyd Medical Center just introduced the da Vinci Xi Surgical System, which allows doctors to perform minimally invasive surgeries with greater precision and control than is often possible using older, more traditional, techniques.

The lieutenant governor’s staff believes the three-hour summit will offer opportunities to network and collaborate in support of transformational education initiatives to build a workforce for the future.

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