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Dublin High School’s Biomedical Academy Brings Students a Step Closer Towards Becoming Healthcare Professionals

January 25, 2017

DUBLIN, CA–Now in its third year, Dublin High School’s Health Sciences and Medical Technology Academy is continuing to provide students with an engaging and collaborative approach towards exploration of concepts in biology and medicine. Starting this Academy required an entire year of planning by a team which comprised of both Dublin High School and district personnel: Dublin Unified School District Director of Student Services Bryce Custodio, DHS Principal Maureen Byrne, Biology with Research Teacher Janet Kaehms, and DHS Science Co-Chair Julianne Sundstrom.

According to Mrs. Sundstrom—who now is the Academy Coordinator, teaching Principles of Biomedical Science and Medical Innovations—the intent behind bringing this program to Dublin High was to “increase students’ exposure to a solid STEM pathway, especially because we have a great need for people to fill jobs in this pathway…a need we’re trying to respond to through this program.”

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Julianne Sundstrom and Janet Kaehms

The Biomedical Academy is a comprehensive 4-year program, with its curriculum adapted from the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Biomedical Science Sequence. There are currently seventy freshmen, seventy sophomores, and forty-two juniors enrolled in the program.

“The freshman class is Principles of Biomedical Science (PBS),” says Mrs. Sundstrom. In this course, students apply their knowledge of genetics and physiology as they determine possible factors that led to the death of a fictional woman. Students learn more information through autopsies, and are then introduced to various diseases, leading them to realize how different body systems are interconnected. To take this course, students must be concurrently enrolled in Biology or Biology with Research.

The sophomore course, Human Body Systems (HBS), is more of an anatomy-based class; students “do more hands-on building and modeling” with organs and tissues on a skeletal Maniken.

Medical Interventions (MI), the junior-level course, sees students investigate a variety of interventions involved in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease. It deals more with biotechnology, and takes “a broader look at the medical inventions and innovations currently in use.”

“Next year will be our first senior class,” says Mrs. Sundstrom. “There will be plenty of ROP classes to choose from: ROP Nursing, ROP Medical Occupations, or ROP Sports Medicine. So they kind of get to funnel based on their interests. Some are on-site here at Dublin High, but others are held at school sites throughout the Tri-Valley.”

In addition to these courses, Academy students are provided with plenty of resources to help them further explore their interest in healthcare. “We have guest speakers that come in, especially in our Biomed FMP classes,” Mrs. Sundstrom adds. “We group our students into a common GAEL period so that we can bring in guest speakers there too, for sophomores and juniors. The juniors also have a Mentor Program, just like the Engineering one, so they get paired up with real-world professionals.”

Students are sometimes also taken on field trips, to visit colleges. “Our counselor [Mrs. Caroline Rubio] is a huge resource for them…she’s always letting them know about different schools and scholarship opportunities. And then in their senior year, they’ll complete actual internships and get some on-the-job skills along the way.”

In addition, there is a HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) club at Dublin High School which is affiliated with the Academy. “You don’t have to be in both, but it’s definitely recommended that if you’re a biomed student, you participate in the club,” says Mrs. Sundstrom. “They do events and fundraisers that center around biomedical and health science.”

Here, Mrs. Sundstrom shares more about the various career opportunities which students explore in the program, what students ought to consider before applying, as well as the challenges that the Academy currently faces as a result of its popularity.

Neha Harpanhalli: What are some of the careers that students explore when navigating through the Biomedical Pathway?

Julianne Sundstrom: “When we start with the crime scene [in freshman year], students look at all the professions connected to that. They learn about medical examiners, geneticists, genetic counselors, cardiologists, diabetes educators, endocrinologists…the list is endless. So doctors, nurses, specialists, counseling support, and technical jobs are all included.”

Harpanhalli: What should students keep in mind while applying for the Academy?

Sundstrom: “First of all, they have to be willing to have a double science, so their elective is going towards the science class, which is limiting for them. If they want to do choir, or band, or art, they can’t. So there are definitely some schedule constraints that come along with joining the Academy. And they must continue to take double science, for all four years.”

Harpanhalli: Given that the Academy is relatively new and is already seeing such high enrollment, what are some of the challenges you are facing?

Sundstrom: “Well, we can’t take in everybody that is interested right now, because we don’t have room at the high school….also we can’t have that same, close-knit Academy feel if it becomes too large. We definitely recommend for students to check out all of the other wonderful academies on campus too. Their interests might lie elsewhere.
One of our biggest challenges is when kids that are not really interested in biomed are forced into the Academy [by parents]. A student who is truly interested in biomed and wants to pursue it as a career doesn’t get in because we do a random selection process.”

Harpanhalli: How has the community response been after the introduction of this Academy at DHS?

Sundstrom: “It’s been very positive. Parents provide donations for additional opportunities for our students, and many from the community volunteer as mentors and guest speakers (although we could always use more!). Just in general, I think the community is impressed when they see what our students have been learning in this program.”

Harpanhalli: What are your goals for the Biomedical Academy in the near future?

Sundstrom: “Well, we’re excited that next year we will graduate our first class. We will continue to improve and broaden students’ exposure to different aspects of healthcare, and help them to select the right pathway for them.”

Mrs. Julianne Sundstrom is the coordinator for the Health Sciences and Medical Technology Academy at Dublin High School. She joined DHS in 2007, and currently teaches Principles of Biomedical Science (PBS) and Medical Interventions (MI).

Also part of the Biomedical Academy team: Mrs. Janet Kaehms, who teaches Human Body Systems (HBS) and Biology with Research; Ms. Amy Lopez, who teaches ROP Sports Medicine; Ms. Christine Buckley, who teaches ROP Medical Occupations at Granada High School, and Ms. Nancy McNeil, who teaches ROP Nursing at Foothill High School.

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