MT. VERNON — Getting local hospitals involved will be a key part of expanding the biomedical sciences program at the Mt. Vernon Area Vocational Center, said health instructor Tammy Martin.
Currently, there are three Project Lead the Way biomedical courses offered at the AVC, located on the Mt. Vernon Township High School campus.
School officials are now adding a fourth class. As part of that process, they want to form relationships with the area medical community.
The new course, Martin said, will give students the chance to job shadow at local hospitals and work with physicians who would serve as mentors. The goal is to introduce the new class in the 2015-2016 school year.
“That's where we'd like to go now because we're in year three of the program and it's continuing to grow and I feel that if we could get some partnerships with the local facilities and physicians, we could really expand even more,” said Martin, a Health Science Technology teacher at the AVC.
Project Lead the Way is a national program that provides engineering and biomedical courses to high schools and middle schools. The schools pay for the curriculum, equipment and teacher training for the program.
The AVC started its local PLTW program about four years ago and qualifying students from Mt. Vernon, Waltonville, Webber, Woodlawn and Wayne City can participate. The elective courses are taken during a student's regular school day.
“I love it,” said Myranda Epplin, 17, a senior at MVTHS and third-year biomedical student. “I think it really helps students be independent. It helps them really get their foot in the door for the medical programs.”
The biomedical courses are geared toward students with an interest in pre-medical education.
The three classes offered now at the AVC are Principles of Biomedical Sciences, Human Body Systems and Medical Interventions. This school year, there are 45 students enrolled in the program.
According to Martin, the courses cover a wide array of topics.
First-year students begin by investigating a case where a patient has died and they have to determine the cause.
Also, throughout the year, they conduct various “labs” to learn about diabetes, heart disease, and different genetic disorders.
“I really like the labs because I feel like a scientist,” said MVTHS freshman Shreya Sudeep Nair, 14, a first-year biomedical student. “It's a really challenging class, but it's fun to learn about these different diseases.”
Second-year students focus on human body systems and how they work, including how the brain signals the body to perform various tasks.
Finally, in the more advanced third-year class, students look at how to intervene when patients are having medical problems.
For example, they learn how to diagnose meningitis, test for HIV, and manipulate DNA to make vaccines and treat disorders.
“This is giving them a really good foundation to really succeed in those types of classes when they get into post-secondary,” Martin said. “Here, they're actually applying it to real life so it makes sense.”
All the PLTW courses utilize online curriculums. About 10 percent of the courses are made up of traditional lectures, but the rest of the time students are completing hands-on projects.
“I think we have an advantage in being exposed to this sort of curriculum before college,” said MVTHS senior David Modert, 17, a third-year biomedical student.
Those in the local medical community are encouraged to contact Martin at 246-5801, or at firstname.lastname@example.org, if they are interested in helping with the new biomedical course.