Malcolm X College continues to boost health sciences
October 5, 2018

MEDICAL EDUCATION AT MALCOLM X—Students learn various state-of-the-science medical techniques by practicing on mannequins in healthcare education programs at Malcolm X College.

By Peter Winslow

Since its official opening on Jan. 7, 2016, the new Malcolm X College building continues to provide myriad resources to surrounding communities and to prospective and current students across Chicago. 

Malcolm X College offers two-year associate degree and certificate programs with courses in education, information technology, natural sciences, dental hygiene, and other programs. The college has won recognition most often, however, for its School of Health Sciences, which prepares students for the burgeoning heath care industry in the Illinois Medical District and beyond.

David A. Sanders, Malcolm X’s president, said of the college’s impact, “We’ve seen the graduation rate go from 7% in 2015 to now 24% in 2018.”

When asked what his goal was for Malcolm X’s graduation rate over the next five years, Sanders did not provide a specific number.  Instead, he referenced the importance of being attune with the needs of a constantly changing student enrollment population.  “Our goal is to continue that trend of increasing our graduation rate and we have assessments and evaluations that we do on an every-semester basis to determine what issues students are having,” said Sanders.

Sanders attributes the positive graduation trajectory to the college’s refreshed resources as well as those intensive evaluations and assessments he and his team perform each semester.  But he hopes to achieve more and address problems facing his students in the coming years.

A new building has allowed Malcolm X College to add programs.

“We realized in order to impact students we need to address the rates of retention,” Sanders explained. “Why are students leaving before completing their programs? One of the things we found in research was a lot of socioeconomic factors were impacting our students prior to them completing the programs. We need to get them to completion quicker and faster.” 

Myrna Avila, a first-generation college student and vice president of the student government association, shared high praise about the diversification of Malcolm X’s resources and academic support systems. She said Malcolm X  “does a good job categorizing and sorting out the courses for you.  They say that these are the courses you need to take and they are very familiar with major universities in the area and out of the area.” 

When asked what advice she would give to prospective students, Avila said, “As long as you put in the work, there is no doubt that there are resources here to help you figure it out.”

Photo courtesy City Colleges of Chicago
Students learning in the new Malcolm X College School of Health Sciences facilities.

New programs

While still providing traditional two-year associate degree and certificate curricula, the college now offers single term certificate programs that students can complete in only 16 weeks.

Malcolm X has added or updated certificate programs in community health, medical billing, medical coding, nursing, phlebotomy, and patient care. Recently, the college’s nursing program earned accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and produced a high student pass volume and pass rate. In 2016, City Colleges of Chicago consolidated multiple nursing programs and centered them at Malcolm X’s updated campus.

While Malcolm X rotates classes of health science and nursing students through clinical training programs in Chicago area hospitals, the reinvigorated facility provides state of the science clinical and emergency labs, said Nancy Kipnis, an assistant professor of nursing at Malcolm X.

“On the fifth floor, we have more than an adequate number of what we call skills labs,” Kipnis said. “They mirror a patient’s room,” she said. “They have the beds, mannequins, oxygen equipment, and supply cabinets, and we have that for the students. These labs allow for students to hone skills necessary to be professionals in an environment that is great for active learning,” she added.

In addition to skills labs, the Malcolm X facility holds a fully equipped simulation hospital on the eighth floor. “We can simulate a woman giving birth, heart attacks, pediatric patients, and adult patients, and we can actually simulate a patient situation—the patient’s vital signs are changing and the condition is changing,” Kipnis said. The in-house hospital simulator replicates environments such as emergency room and triage centers with the hopes of giving students a range of situational learning experiences to better prepare them for future experiences in their careers.

Students learn various medical techniques by practicing on mannequins at Malcolm X College.

Learning optimized

When asked why these simulators were so valuable to students’ education, Kipnis said, “Their learning is optimized through those simulations. They act out. They simulate what they would actually do, which is very dynamic active learning and, at the end of the day, it helps us promote patient safety first, our primary goal.” 

Nicholas Haubach, chief human resources officer at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System (UI Health), said students on clinical rotations might not be exposed to the innumerable issues and complications they may face during their careers. Clinical training programs only allot a certain number of credit hours for students to advance their in-field skills, so the Malcolm X program provides invaluable training. 

“It is one thing to read about something and another to have human-like mannequins in a simulated real-life event,” Haubach said. “Having something like that is truly beneficial.”

“We were very pleased to hear of the facility and program expansions at Malcolm X College,” said West Loop Community Organization director Carla Agostinelli. “The programs are relevant to the needs of the community, as the college is located blocks from the Illinois Medical District. We are hopeful to see more graduates placed at Rush, Stroger, and University of Illinois at Chicago.”

Among Illinois community colleges, Malcolm X and the City Colleges of Chicago collectively in 2017 had the largest number of students pass the National Council Licensure Examination and associate’s degree in nursing exams. The pass rate for students in the nursing program stands at 94%, and other “health science programs are at a 90% pass rate or better,” Sanders added.

Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. (27th Ward) also has praised the college’s achievements. “The Medical District is the largest district employing individuals in Illinois,” said Burnett. “As baby boomers are beginning to retire, there are a lot of vacancies opening for students.”

Malcolm X, along with many other of the City Colleges of Chicago, works with area high schools to open pathways for students who otherwise would not have sought a post secondary education. For graduating Chicago Public School students, “We have a Star Scholarship program that offers students the opportunity to go to school free of charge as long as they graduate high school with a 3.0 GPA and test completion-ready in math and English,” said Sanders.

Tuition rates for students at Malcolm X vary based on whether an individual lives within the College’s district or holds residency in Illinois.  For more information, log on to