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Geisinger becomes the first member of Risant Health

Noe Ortega, acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), named REACH-HEI a "Best Practice" in Pennsylvania.

REACH-HEI, the Regional Education Academy for Careers in Health – Higher Education Initiative, is Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine’s (GCSOM) out-of-school program that provides academic enrichment opportunities, including mentoring by medical and graduate students, for low-income and/or first-generation-to-college students in northeastern and central Pennsylvania and encourages their success in health-related professions.

The PDE distinction recognizes REACH-HEI for its success and efficacy in providing career pathways to students that are aligned with the commonwealth’s workforce needs and workforce readiness initiatives.

According to Maureen Murtha, MS, REACH-HEI program administrator, the recognition also means REACH-HEI is aligned with two key PDE’s goals:

  1. To prepare learners for meaningful engagement in postsecondary education, in workforce training, in career pathways, and as responsible, involved citizens.
  2. To meet the commonwealth’s goal of having “60 percent of the population age 25 to 64 hold a postsecondary degree or industry-recognized credential by 2025, with a particular focus on closing the attainment gaps for historically underrepresented populations."

REACH-HEI founder, Ida L. Castro, JD, GCSOM’s chief diversity officer, vice president of community engagement and associate dean for equity and inclusion, said, “Being recognized as a ‘best practice’ is an honor and a testament to the hard work our team has done to build a multi-faceted, longitudinal pipeline program. The bigger honor, however, is in preparing our region’s young people – especially those from disadvantaged or marginalized backgrounds – for meaningful and rewarding careers, while meeting our area’s real need for skilled healthcare providers.”

Since being designated a ‘best practice,” Ms. Murtha has been invited to speak at the statewide Career Ready PA Coalition on Nov. 16. The purpose of the meeting is to encourage statewide educators and administrators to promote and establish future-ready initiatives to career pathways, similar to the REACH-HEI/COE model. Ten Career Ready statewide regions represent career readiness and workforce stakeholders focused on strengthening partnerships to advance career pathways for learners. Since REACH-HEI’s inception in 2011, the program has served nearly 2,000 area youth.

About Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine

Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (GCSOM) is a member of the Geisinger family. GCSOM offers a community-based model of medical education with campuses in Danville, Lewistown, Scranton, Sayre and Wilkes-Barre. Geisinger Commonwealth offers Doctor of Medicine (MD) and a portfolio of graduate degrees. The school’s innovative curriculum, focused on caring for people in the context of their lives and their community, attracts the next generation of physicians and scientists from within its region, as well as from across the state and the nation. Geisinger Commonwealth is committed to non-discrimination in all employment and educational opportunities. Visit

About Geisinger
Geisinger is among the nation’s leading providers of value-based care, serving 1.2 million people in urban and rural communities across Pennsylvania. Founded in 1915 by philanthropist Abigail Geisinger, the non-profit system generates $10 billion in annual revenues across 134 care sites - including 10 hospital campuses, and Geisinger Health Plan, with 600,000 members in commercial and government plans. The Geisinger College of Health Sciences educates more than 5,000 medical professionals annually and conducts more than 1,400 clinical research studies. With 26,000 employees, including 1,600 employed physicians, Geisinger is among Pennsylvania’s largest employers with an estimated economic impact of $14 billion to the state’s economy. On March 31, 2024, Geisinger became the first member of Risant Health, a new nonprofit charitable organization created to expand and accelerate value-based care across the country.  Learn more at or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and X.

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Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine
Elizabeth Zygmunt
Director, Media and Public Relations 
Office: 570-504-9687
On Call: 570-687-9703
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