By Melissa Garcia

DENVER (CBS4)– A Denver hospital is helping the next generation to connect with career opportunities in the medical field.

CBS4 News has recently reported on a shortage of people in those healthcare positions.

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(credit: Healthcare Interest Program)

To help meet the need, Denver Health Medical Center is stepping in to help recruit students of ethnic minorities.

The reach of Denver Health’s Healthcare Interest Program (HIP) has more than doubled in just the last couple of years.

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(credit: Healthcare Interest Program)

HIP has gone from accepting pre-medicine undergraduates from just the University of Colorado Denver to also taking them in from Metropolitan State University in Denver.

Additionally, this is the first academic school year where students are earning university credits for participating in the program. It runs a full school year and earns two college credits.

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MSU Denver senior Alma Ochoa learns from her mentor Denver Health Medical Center P.A. Mandy Thompson (credit: CBS)

One participant said HIP’s bigger value was in helping her to navigate what can be a difficult field to get into.

MSU Denver senior Alma Ochoa is learning the ropes of medicine under the guidance of Mandy Thompson, a physician’s assistant at the hospital’s Nephrology division.

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Denver Health Medical Center P.A. Mandy Thompson (credit: CBS)

“Mentoring was a big part of how I became a PA,” Thompson told CB4’s Melissa Garcia.

Through HIP, Ochoa shadows Thompson at the same hospital dialysis center that saved the life of a close family member four years ago.

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(credit: CBS)

“She was really sick,” Ochoa said. “She didn’t know that she had a problem with her kidneys.”

Now, the Colorado resident from Mexico, wants to save others, and HIP is helping her to reach her professional dream.

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(credit: Healthcare Interest Program)

In addition to working “hands-off” with patients alongside providers, the program includes lectures, community service and mentoring. It aims to boost what officials say is a limited number of ethnic minorities working in Denver’s medical arena.

“This program is full of heart,” said Josina Romero O’Connell, Associate Director of HIP.

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(credit: CBS)

She said that both future practioners and their patients would benefit.

“We have an extremely diverse population that we serve. An extremely underserved population. And outcomes have always been known to be better when people who are underserved are actually served by providers who speak their language, look like them, have experienced what they’ve experienced,” Romero O’Connell said.

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(credit: Healthcare Interest Program)

The hospital’s deadline for students to apply for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year is on March 28, 2018.

LINK: Healthcare Interest Program

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to mkgarcia@cbs.com.

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