Westlake biomedical students receive white lab coats
Ceremony marks completing more than half of program
Twenty-four juniors and seniors in Westlake High School’s Project Lead the Way biomedicine program were honored Nov. 10 for being more than halfway through their studies with pristine, white lab coats in recog- nition of their achievements.
Westlake Principal Mi- chael Meiser said recent advances in the neuroscience and biomedical fields include developing means for allowing para- lyzed subjects to walk and creating artificial hands for amputees.
“This is what biomedical science and neuroscience are doing. This is what we hope one of these 24, or all 24 of these kids, are going to tie into and have an im- pact on our future,” Meiser said, telling the students, “I’m excited to see where you guys will go.”
Keynote speaker Kerry Clark, deputy director of explosive ordnance engineering with the U.S. Na- vy’s Naval Sea Systems Command, brought her own dirty, wrinkled lab coat, and said the mark of a successful scientist is how non-pristine their new lab coats will become.
“This lab coat is pretty disgusting, but it’s mine,” Clark said. “If this lab coat could talk, what would it show? It would show late nights, cold pizza, stale coffee, flat Mountain Dew, overnights in the lab … This represents me as a chemist. If this lab coat could talk, it would say, ‘This is a chemist; this is a darned good chemist.’”
Clark also serves as a member of the Professional Advisory Council for Charles County Public Schools’ biomedical program.
“When you get your lab coats, you’re supposed to live in it, and learn in it, and love in it, and get it dirty and have those suc- cesses, and have those failures, and grow, and have an amazingly, friendly, warm, disgusting lab coat,” Clark told students.
Project Lead the Way, or PLTW, is a national non- profit organization that provides STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) relat- ed curricula to schools across the country, ac- cording to its website.
Students completing the biomed program may be eligible for college credit or scholarships at partici- pating schools.
White coat ceremonies for students in the medical profession are a recent tradition, dating back to the 1980s at Chi- cago University, and are used to mark a student’s transition from the study of preclinical to clinical health sciences, said Westlake Vice Principal Philip Jones.
“You have dedicated your lives to this field so far, and so it is our hope that you will take these coats with you over the next year or two years, and off to college and into the lab,” Jones told students. “They are not to remain on hangers, they are to be used, they are to be proud of.”
“You are our future,” biomed teacher Jean Benedetti told students. “We’re going to look to you to take care of us, and someday you’re going to do just that.”
Westlake junior Mia Talley said she joined the biomed program because she wants to pursue a career in physical therapy. She said the program is challenging.
“The tests get harder and harder, so you real- ly have to study,” Talley said.
Alyssa Perkins said she joined the biomed program because she wants to pursue a career as a pediatric surgeon.
“I knew the biomed program had a hands-on as- pect that could really take me places,” Perkins said.
She said the program comes with a heavy workload. “There is a lot of work to do in a cer- tain amount of days, but most people in the program, as long as you’re determined, you can get through it, so it’s not too big a problem,” noted.
Caitlin Addison, a senior at Westlake, said she joined the program because she wished to become a geneticist.
“My second year was most interesting, because we learned all about the human body systems, the bones, the cardiovascular system, all that, and it was cool to learn about what’s inside of you,” Addison said. Perkins
She said she would definitely recommend the program to any student considering entering the biomedical field.
“I would say definitely do it, because it’s a cool experience and you definitely get a lot out of it,” she said.
After receiving their white coats, students shared a reading of a modern version of the Hippocratic Oath.