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Tech students have variety of biomed career opportunities

December 16, 2008|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- On a recent day, teacher Sally Irwin's classroom was full of Washington County Technical High School students who are taking her biomedical science classes, along with sophomores from Williamsport and North Hagerstown high schools on a second visit because they are considering attending the school.

After lunch, in came several seniors who this year are taking advanced placement biology and who last year took Irwin's introductory biomed course.

Chodian Nelson, a Williamsport sophomore, wants to become a pediatrician. Julie Miller, a Tech High junior, wants to be an occupational therapist. Tech High senior Victor Pekar of Smithsburg wants to be a paramedic and schoolmate Brooke Brechbill of Williamsport wants to be a registered dietician or a pharmacist.

Which of these career aims have to do with biotech?

"They all do," Irwin said. "Like the pharmacist she wants to be, it's not just working at CVS. We always think of the traditional fields, but there are pharmacists who work in the biotech field. Are nurses only in hospitals? No."

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"And dermatologists," added Tech High senior Christine Kantner, who wants to be one, "they work in labs with laser technology. It's like laser -- zap! That's biotech."

"Always going to be a need in biomed and health. They're pretty much intertwined," said senior Stephanie Johnson, who wants to be an occupational therapist.

The career path is wide. According to a brochure for the nationwide pioneering Project Lead the Way biomed program, jobs include:

o Biomedical engineer, who develops devices and procedures that solve medical and health-related problems by combining knowledge of biology and medicine with engineering principles and practices.

o Radiation therapist, who uses machines called linear accelerators to administer radiation treatment to cancer patients.

o Medical illustrator, who creates graphic representations of medical or biological subjects for use in textbooks, pamphlets, exhibits, instructional films, civil or legal procedures, and teaching models.

o Pharmacy technician, who prepares prescriptions, orders supplies, maintains patient records, billing and inventory, and who receives and screens prescription drug orders for completeness and accuracy.

Irwin, 46, has a master's degree in environmental health and safety engineering, and worked as a medical technologist at a hospital and at two pharmaceutical companies. After moving to Hagerstown, she was teaching science at E. Russell Hicks Middle School in Hagerstown when the new job, teacher of biomedical science at Tech High, was posted.

"I thought, 'Oh, my gosh! That's me!' And, it's been a great experience," she said. "So that's what I tell the kids: This could be a door. So many possibilities that open up."

-- Arnold S. Platou

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