The Future Of Science: Students delve into professional life

Published on Saturday, 5 July 2014 18:44 - Written by Coshandra Dillard cdillard@tylerpaper.com

Jarod Pamatmat, 17, already knows what he wants to do for a living. He’ll become a doctor, just like his parents. He spent four weeks of the summer learning the inner workings of the medical field, from both clinical and biomedical perspectives, during UT Health Northeast’s first biomedical science internship.

He spent some time learning about radiology and prepping a project to present to his peers.

Jarod, from All Saints Episcopal School, is among 18 high school and college students participating in the hospital’s program, thanks to an initial donation from AT&T.

“It turns out that there was a great demand for a program that provided exposure for high school-age students and early collegians to both medicine and biomedical science,” said Dr. Steven Idell, Ph.D., vice president of research at UT Health Northeast.

Students came from local schools, including Chapel Hill High School, T.K. Gorman High School, Grace Community High School, Robert E. Lee High School, and John Tyler High School.

A few interns attend colleges and universities already, including Texas College, Baylor University, Texas Women’s College and Vanderbilt University.

For three days a week, they worked on biomedical research projects in labs alongside experienced scientists, learning about genomics and informatics, or data processing.

They shadowed physicians two days each week to learn about the inner workings of a medical setting. The students also learned about the business law of medicine and compliance procedures.

“Those things are important to understand because it’s not just seeing patients,” Idell said. “It’s a lot of things.”

For students such as Jarod, the training gives them added knowledge to prepare for a life as a doctor.

For other students in the program, it enables them to ponder which science careers to choose.

Rewa Caldwell, 39, dreamed of becoming an anesthesiologist at only 6 years old. Very observant, she paid close attention to the anesthesiologist who visited her grandmother before a surgery.

Years later, she realized she didn’t want to go to college for several years and opted for something else — pharmacy.

When she started attending Texas College in 2012, the nontraditional student was determined to enter the medical field. She learned about a program from her biology professor.

Mrs. Caldwell didn’t think she’d like research, but she now has a different view about the many other science fields.

“Now I’m not sure if I want to be a pharmacist,” she said. “I’ve just seen so much and learned so much. I like the research a lot. I didn’t think I would, but I do.”

She’ll graduate from Texas College next year with a bachelor’s degree in biology.

Since her four-week internship, she’s learned that there is a way to blend pharmacy and research — by becoming a clinical research pharmacist.

Students who are on path to a medical career or have the resources to learn about science programs may find it easy to grab those opportunities.

Idell wants to expand the reach for those who don’t have that advantage or exposure to such prospects.

“We want make this available to kids who would probably not have the perspective to go looking for this themselves or even get the advice to actually do it,” he said. “We need kids who don’t have the input or the resources to get that input.”

Attracting young people to biomedical careers has been a focus for the hospital, as they hope to boost the number of people in support science fields, Idell noted. With a looming influx of patients who will have insurance and a need for more doctors, he said the medical field needs additional science support professionals as well.

He believes now is the time to enter those fields. New approaches to science today, Idell said, helps to identify new targets for treatment for conditions such as cancer and organ injuries.

“There’s never really been a better time to get into science than now because the opportunities to discover essentially paradigm shifting treatments have never been greater,” he said