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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
Geisinger is committed to making better health easier for the more than 1 million people it serves. Founded more than 100 years ago by Abigail Geisinger, the system now includes 10 hospital campuses, a health plan with more than half a million members, a research institute and the Geisinger College of Health Sciences, which includes schools of medicine, nursing and graduate education. With more than 25,000 employees and 1,700+ employed physicians, Geisinger boosts its hometown economies in Pennsylvania by billions of dollars annually. Learn more at or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine
Elizabeth Zygmunt
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