Release Date: Sep 30, 2022

SHELTON, WA – This past summer, the Thurston Chamber and the Thurston-Mason Medical Society honored the Shelton School District’s Health Sciences Academy with the Innovative Community Service Healthcare Champions Award. Mason Health Chief Nursing Officer Melissa Strong and Shelton School District Superintendent Wyeth Jessee accepted the award for their work. Mason Health has been an integral partner in building the Health Sciences Academy at Shelton High School, working to create and support the program since its inception in 2015.

“These are two completely unique industries coming together to improve our communities,” said Darin Goss, Chief Executive of Providence Swedish South Puget Sound and emcee at the Healthcare Champions event.

At Shelton High School, students choose from four academies (Health Sciences, Natural Resources, Business & Finance, and Manufacturing, Engineering & Technology), and then pathways within an academy, to focus their studies. Mason Health would like to encourage more young people to consider careers in the health sciences, Strong said.

“Health care is a broad industry, with multiple career options,” she said. “You can take a 10-week course and become a phlebotomy assistant at the same time as taking prerequisites to become a nurse. If you don’t like blood, you can go into the business side of health care. You’ll never get bored. If you love helping people, this is recognized as one of the noblest professions.”

Taking part in an academy gives students a chance to see what it would be like to work in that field. In the spring of 2022, Mason Health offered, for the first time, full-ride scholarships to nursing school and medical assistant programs. Geared toward students who have taken courses in the Shelton High School Health Sciences Academy, the recipients must agree to work at Mason Health for two years after their schooling is complete.

Scholarship winners Gregoria Lizbeth Alonzo Tomas, Eryka Stephanie Delgado-Hernandez and Carly VanAagten will pursue schooling this fall to eventually work at Mason Health — Alonzo Tomas will enter the Washington Community Health 12-month medical assistant apprenticeship program to become a medical assistant at Mason Clinic, while Delgado-Hernandez and VanAagten will pursue nursing school to eventually work at Mason General Hospital.

“This program is an investment into our community, and I believe this will become the model used elsewhere,” Strong said.

Mason Health, Public Hospital District No. 1 of Mason County, is ISO 9001 Quality Management System certified by Det Norske Veritas (DNV) and is a licensed and accredited acute care hospital with a level four emergency trauma designation. Mason General Hospital and Mason Clinic are ENERGY STAR® certified and Mason Health is the recipient of Practice Greenhealth Partner for Change Environmental Excellence Awards. There are more than 100 physicians on staff in 19 specialties. For more information or to find a health care provider, visit To learn more about DNV, visit


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From left, Strong, Jessee, Mason Health CEO Eric Moll and Shelton Schools Director of Career Connected Learning Gretchen Maliska at the 16th annual Health Care Champions Award Ceremony, June 28, 2022, at the Olympia Country & Golf Club.