Turner High School Teacher Launches Health Career Podcast

Posted February 21, 2022

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS — From a quiet hallway between the pool where he teaches swimming two hours a day and a classroom where he teaches health and health sciences classes, Drew Garner, Turner High School teacher and head boys and girls golf coach, has launched a podcast to help students explore health industry careers.

“It’s very high tech,” Garner says jokingly of his studio set-up, which he’s pieced together with odds and ends he’s borrowed from his classroom. Like most teachers, his can-do mentality has transformed a temporary quick fix to replace in-person guest speakers during the pandemic into a healthcare careers podcast series for teachers, parents or students.

Available at healthsciencescoach.com, his podcast is being used now in many classrooms in the KC metro. (And if this article has anything to do with it, his reach may soon be even wider!)

Garner interviews one professional each week in a wide spectrum of health careers ranging from physical therapists who work with children to medical interpreters.

“When I was in school, I didn’t know enough about my options,” Garner said. “I played baseball as a kid, and I found myself in college majoring in sports marketing. I graduated and worked in that field a few years, but my passion wasn’t there. I needed to make a change, so I job shadowed with my middle school physical education teacher, who was now an athletic director. That experience made me realize I wanted to work with sports and kids, possibly as a coach or a high school athletic director.”

Garner went back to school and earned his master’s degree in health and physical education from the University of Kansas, then started substitute teaching and coaching baseball. The next year, he was hired as a teacher and coach at Turner High School, a few years later he earned a second master’s degree in building leadership from Baker University. Garner’s now in his tenth year at THS.

A few years ago, five weeks before commencement, a student who was about to graduate asked him how someone could become a nurse. He knew if she had realized earlier what she wanted to do with her life, she could have completed certified nursing assistant training for free while in high school. The next year, four other students asked him how they could start health careers.

Garner saw this as a sign that the school had an unmet need. He went to his principal and asked to start a health sciences pathway.

The next year, they began offering a health sciences careers exploration class, then the following year launched their pathway, which is now in year four. From the beginning, he encouraged his students to help him find working professionals through LinkedIn to invite to their class as guest speakers. Once the pandemic forced him to switch these presentations to the podcast format, he continued having students use LinkedIn to find interviewees.

“That, or any other way I can find people,” Garner laughs. “Some are personal friends, some are referrals from other guests. We’re always looking for people willing to share their story.”

Now, a year later, he’s got more than 40 episodes in his library available for download on his website, through YouTube or through various podcast outlets such as Apple and Google. Teachers, parents and students are encouraged to subscribe to his channel, which posts new episodes most Tuesdays.

Weekly, Garner has students listen to the podcast in class, then has them complete an assignment to help them process and apply what they learned. Students respond to questions such as:

  • Where did the person go to school?
  • What are three schools in our area or region that offer training in this field?
  • What are salary expectations in this job?
  • What advice did the interviewee have for high school students interested in this career field?
  • What are three personal key takeaways you had from the interview?

Garner has the students provide timecodes from the parts of the podcast that were particularly impactful to them so he can later edit out snippets from those sections to promote the podcast on social media.

Over the course of a semester, Garner has about 18 guests on his podcast. While he says some of the guests say similar things, the variety of interviews and jobs represented give the students a broad overview of possibilities.

As far as what his current students think about the podcast, Garner says those who have committed to pursuing a healthcare career are “really into them,” but some of his underclassmen aren’t quite as enthralled. And that’s ok.  

“It’s really hit or miss,” Garner says. “They’re kids and they’re still figuring out what they want to do. This is one more tool I can make available to them. You never know if any of the guests’ advice will help them find their future educational or professional path.”

Garner has only been able to find one other similar podcast in the country focused on healthcare career exploration, and that’s hosted by an anesthesiologist from New York. Garner said that podcast is more geared to medical students. He strives to make his podcast accessible to teenagers and college students.

Garner is always looking for new professionals to have on his show. If you are interested in sharing your expertise as a guest on his podcast, please use this form to volunteer.