More than 125 high school seniors gathered at the Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences (KCUMB) this week to kick off their PLTW Biomedical Science capstone projects with a day of design thinking exercises and mentoring.
“What’s involved in taking an experiment all the way to human subject testing?” asked one student during a session with Dr. Ganesh Thiagarajan, a bioscience researcher at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
The capstone course tops off the PLTW Biomedical Science program that empowers students to take on real-world healthcare challenges such as discovering new cancer treatments or educating the community on healthy lifestyle choices. Students also gain skills and knowledge that are in-demand across career paths, such as collaboration and communications skills.
Every year, KC STEM Alliance in Kansas City hosts seniors from the region to make connections with industry professionals. This year, more than 40 representatives from leading biomedical science companies such as Bayer Healthcare, Cardinal Health, and Viracor Eurofin Clinical Diagnostics talked to students about the healthcare industry, jobs available in the field, and answered questions about their professions.
Brooke Birdsong is the associate director of admissions at KCUMB and talked to students about how to prepare for getting into and thriving in medical school.
“You have to know what field you’re passionate about so you can find the program that is going to get you where you want to go,” she said. “It’s not just about getting into med school, it’s about getting into the right program for you.”
Stephanie Poll, director of curriculum and instruction at PLTW, said the value of the biomedical science pathway is how it exposes students to so many career opportunities.
“Students come in and want to be doctors and nurses, but they don’t know what other careers are in the field,” she said. “In PLTW Biomedical Science, students take on different roles within the field and work through the same problems, even using the same equipment.”
Poll has heard many stories from PLTW Biomedical Science alumni who have gone onto pursue careers in the biomedical field.
“I’ve heard of students walking into their freshman or even higher-level classes at college and think ‘I’ve got this, I know how to do this,’” she said. “Even if they go into a biomedical field or not, our students are motivated and take ownership of that learning.”
PLTW President and CEO Vince Bertram kicked off the event by encouraging students to take advantage of every opportunity presented to them, but also to develop a growth mindset that allows them to adapt.
“We want you to develop the skills that are and will be in high demand, so you can control your future, achieve economic freedom and prosperity, and contribute to your community,” said Bertram. “But the world you will face is very different than the one your parents faced. Our population is increasing, people are living longer, and the demand for healthcare professionals is at an all-time high. Technology has changed the way we prevent, diagnose, and treat disease, and you will be faced with solving those healthcare issues with rapidly changing technology.”
While in Kansas City, Bertram also visited Belvedere Elementary School in Grandview School District and visited PLTW Launch classrooms where fifth graders were collaborating, even with students at other schools, on real health issues, such as how to prevent winter colds.
PLTW Biomedical Science student Sierra Dyson-Hanks from Grandview High School was along for the visit, and when asked what she thought about elementary students working on the same problems at such a young age, she said, “They are set. They’re going to be way ahead. At that age, I was just coloring pictures.”