High school students explore health careers during annual Health Sciences Academy

For Immediate Release:
July 5, 2022

Primary Media Contact:
Sally Voth
Public Relations Specialist
[email protected]
Phone: 540-868-7134

Valley Health Sciences Academy 2022
Students spent two days at Laurel Ridge, and one day each at Shenandoah University and Winchester Medical Center.

Handley High School rising sophomore Blessed Makahanadze said the recent Health Sciences Academy held at Laurel Ridge Community College, Shenandoah University and Winchester Medical Center, gave him a great insight into the world of health professions.

“It was a fun experience, and it was educational as well,” Blessed said. “We explored a lot of the health professions; we saw a cadaver lab. We also did a lot of other activities, such as helping with the birth of a baby. We sutured pigs’ legs. Everything at the camp was special, but I would probably say the cadaver lab was my favorite, just because of how much of an eye-opening experience it was.”

The camp, which was June 21-24, is a partnership among Laurel Ridge, SU, Valley Health and area public school divisions, said Brenda Byard, dean of Early College and High School Partnerships. It was open to students in Clarke County, Frederick County, Page County, Rappahannock County, Shenandoah County, Warren County and Winchester schools.

The first camp was 10 years ago, but it wasn’t held in 2020 due to covid. Its purpose is to generate student interest in health professions, promote the health professions programs offered at Laurel Ridge and SU, and introduce students to an acute care environment.

Dean Byard said when the students were at Winchester Medical Center, they toured different hospital departments, discovered why different colors of scrubs were worn and learned about patient privacy laws. At SU, they visited the cadaver lab, the nursing school, the pharmacy school and the athletic training department. While at Laurel Ridge, the campers learned college skills and had sessions in health professions programs the college offers, including emergency medical services, surgical technology, dental hygiene, nursing, physical therapy assistant and medical laboratory technology. 

This year’s camp attracted 31 students.

“The students were so excited,” Dean Byard said. “Usually, they’re kind of nervous the first couple of days, and by the end of the week, they’re all talking to each other, having a lot of fun. It’s great to see the lights come on.”

Blessed, who is considering becoming a pharmacist, said his biology teacher handed out flyers about the camp.

“I just read into it and thought it would be a great opportunity, and applied,” he said. “It really opened up my eyes to what possible health careers I could choose. Everybody who is interested in the health professions should do it.”


Founded in 1970, Laurel Ridge Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With three locations — Middletown, Warrenton, and Luray-Page County — the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. Laurel Ridge offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. Laurel Ridge also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. Laurel Ridge serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.

Laurel Ridge Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate degrees. Laurel Ridge Community College also may offer credentials such as certificates and diplomas at approved degree levels. Questions about the accreditation of Laurel Ridge Community College may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (www.sacscoc.org).

Laurel Ridge Community College is an equal opportunity institution providing educational and employment opportunities, programs, services, and activities. Laurel Ridge shall promote and maintain equal employment and educational opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions including lactation, age (except when age is a bona fide occupational qualification), status as a veteran, national origin, or other non-merit factors. Laurel Ridge also prohibits sexual misconduct including sexual violence or harassment. Inquiries may be directed to the Associate Vice President, Human Resources, [email protected]173 Skirmisher Lane, Middletown, VA 22645, 540-868-7226.

Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.