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Flatt speaks at national healthcare convention

Ten years ago, John Flatt would have never thought he'd be a presenter at a national health care convention.

Then he was an industrial arts teacher. Now he's the school-to-work program coordinator at Detroit Lakes High School.

May 4-5 Flatt attended the national conference on Health Care Workforce Development in Arlington, Va. He sat in on a roundtable discussion and presented information on the school's connection to the health care community in Detroit Lakes.

"We have a strong partnership between education and health care providers," he said.

In 2003, a joint grant between the Minnesota Department of Health and Department of Education helped promote careers in health care. Last year, Flatt presented at a conference in Duluth also, because people were impressed with the model his advisory board developed to encourage students to have careers in health care.

Those on his advisory board include Jean Evans, St. Mary's Regional Health Center; Deb Haagenson, formerly of MeritCare; Linda Walz, Dakota Clinic; Jennifer Klabunde, Emmanuel Community; Kathy Burlingame and Dawn Mallory, both of Minnesota State Community and Technical College, and Ronda Stock, Becker County Community Health director.

Flatt also works with Vicki Johnson, health occupations teacher at DLHS.

"That's what's unique, we have teachers involved from every level," he said.

Although there is an advisory board, Flatt said the model would have never worked without the support of the community and all the health care providers in town.

Businesses such as Emmanuel Community, St. Mary's Regional Health Center and Dakota and MeritCare clinics have provided many students with job shadowing opportunities.

Not that Flatt only pushes health care careers through his school-to-work program.

"We want students to find their natural interests and abilities, not just in health care," he said.

With a major health care shortage due to retirements on the horizon, Flatt said, the advisory board formed to make that partnership with the schools.

"It's a big issue in our community, as well as in rural Minnesota," he said.

Each year, about 15 to 20 DLHS students show an interest in a health care-related field, he said.

As for his time in Virginia, Flatt said he had the opportunity to get a nationwide view of health care versus just Minnesota statistics.

"It was a very rewarding experience," he said.