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Harrisburg, PA – Harrisburg University of Science and Technology (HU) has become the permanent home of Hamilton Health Center’s Medical Assistant (MA) Training Program, which was just recognized by the Central Penn Business Journal as a Healthcare Hero in the Community Outreach/Education category.

Since fall 2023, HU has donated classroom and laboratory facilities in the new UPMC Health Sciences Tower at Harrisburg University to support the program’s first class of students. Nine of the students, all from Harrisburg High School, will graduate in spring 2024.

Hamilton Health Center, a nonprofit outpatient healthcare organization located in Harrisburg, PA, developed the program to address ongoing shortages of Medical Assistants in the region and the larger healthcare field. MAs work alongside medical providers in outpatient and ambulatory care facilities and play a key role in keeping healthcare facilities running smoothly.

Hamilton Health Center and HU are working together to address this shortage. HU was a logical choice for Hamilton because of the university’s downtown location and its commitment to high school outreach and workforce readiness. Hamilton’s MA training program likewise targets high school seniors, in accordance with Governor Shapiro’s Schools-to-Work (STW) initiative. STW seeks to provide clear-cut career pathways to help students prepare for the challenges of the 21st-century workforce and equip them with the tools they need to achieve their career goals.

Providing academic and research settings for learners and instructors exposes students to a university environment and helps them transition from high school to a post-secondary health career pathway. After the students complete the classroom experience, they continue with a 100-hour externship, facilitated by Hamilton Health Center. Once the externship completes and students graduate from high school, they will have a certificate that recognizes them as a Medical Assistant, making them eligible to sit for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant Exam – a recognized credential that can be carried anywhere in the country.

Jeannine Peterson is the former president and CEO of Hamilton Health Center. It was under her leadership that Hamilton’s MA training program took shape. She is also a member of the board of trustees at Harrisburg University.

“This is one of the programs I’m most passionate about,” she said. “Students have the opportunity to gain the education and skills they need to become a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, and then find employment after high school with a sustainable wage. Because this program specifically targets high school seniors, special emphasis is placed on the development of the soft skills they need to succeed in the workplace.”

Hamilton selected Harrisburg School District as a partner because Hamilton’s primary-care sites are located within the same geographic area as the school; many of the students’ families rely on Hamilton for primary care; and Hamilton’s patient demographics are similar to the schools’ population. Additionally, many of Hamilton’s employees are recruited from these communities. Being able to develop a reliable pipeline of students ready to enter the job market upon graduation is a win for Hamilton, the school district, and the students. So far, the program’s 90-percent completion rate far exceeds expectations.

The healthcare industry is growing rapidly, and as medical practices expand, MAs will take on additional duties so physicians can serve more patients in their communities. As a result, the demand for MAs is outpacing supply. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the MA field to grow “much faster” than the average industry, with the US healthcare system expecting to add 105,900 jobs between 2022 and 2032. Healthcare and social assistance is the fastest-growing industry sector in PA’s southcentral planning region. In April 2024, employers had more than 2,400 open Medical Assistant job listings in Pennsylvania.

Hamilton Health Center sees this firsthand in their work, employing 26 MAs with seven current vacancies. On average, it takes six to eight months to fill those vacant positions.

Currently, Hamilton Health Center and Harrisburg University are exploring additional ways for HU to become an even more active partner for the program, including providing instructors in addition to practical learning spaces. In fall 2024, HU and Hamilton Health Care plan to work with Harrisburg and Steelton-Highspire school districts to increase the number of participating students from 10 to 20.


Harrisburg University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and is a private, nonprofit university offering bachelor’s and graduate degree programs in the fields of science, technology, and mathematics. For additional information about the University’s affordable, demand-driven undergraduate and graduate programs, please call 717-901-5146 or email Stay updated by following Harrisburg University on XLinkedInInstagram, and Facebook.