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Iowa Educators Prepare to Teach High School Students How Medicines Are Made
Date:6/24/2008

Groundbreaking Partnership to Enhance Science Education, Introduce Students

to Possible Career Paths

FORT DODGE, Iowa, June 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Weather-related challenges didn't prevent biology and chemistry teachers from more than 20 school districts throughout the state of Iowa from attending a three-day summer institute in Fort Dodge focusing on the pharmaceutical research and development process. They are participating in the first-ever "Summer Science Teachers Institute - RxeSEARCH, an Educational Journey," hosted by Iowa Central Community College.

Thirty teachers are working with local, state and national educators and representatives from the pharmaceutical industry, studying an 11-lesson R&D curriculum at the professional development program which runs from June 24 to 26. Des Moines University, the Iowa Department of Economic Development and Fort Dodge Animal Health, a division of Wyeth, are also sponsoring the program.

Educators are preparing to teach the R&D process that starts with the spark of an idea for a new medicine, moves through research and development, clinical trials and regulatory hurdles and ultimately delivers a new medicine to patients in need. Following the Summer Institute, which is a train-the-trainer session, teachers in participating school districts will roll out the curriculum to their students in the upcoming school year.

"When teachers take this program to the classroom, it will allow students to explore and solve realistic problems in science, using an inquiry-based educational approach," said Jim Kersten, Associate Vice President of Development and Government Relations at Iowa Central Community College. "It will give students an understanding of how science learned in school is applied in a science-based industry. It will also help them get ready for the world of work."

"RxeSEARCH will teach students about the complex and challenging pharmaceutical research and development process. It will expose future scientists to career opportunities and demystify the process that brings drugs to patients," said Tom Berry, Senior Vice President for Global Manufacturing at Fort Dodge Animal Health.

The program was developed by the National Science Resources Center, an affiliate science education center of excellence of the Smithsonian Institution and the National Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry and a team of working high school teachers in Montgomery Township and Newark, NJ, schools. It is now being used by educators in five states including New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Iowa.

This is the second year of involvement by Iowa Central Community College and Humboldt High School of Humboldt, IA. Representatives from the college and high school who participated in last year's Summer Institute in New Jersey, implemented the program during the just-ended school year, and now are helping lead Iowa's first RxeSEARCH Summer Institute.

"With the help of Fort Dodge Animal Health, Iowa Central Community College invited master teachers from New Jersey to present the curriculum this week in Fort Dodge," said Kersten. He noted Iowa Central has strong local partnerships with 28 high schools in nine counties. Recently the college promoted an $18 million bond issue, passed by the voters in 2007, which funds programs in science and math, among other subject areas. "This is a perfect outgrowth of that effort," Kersten said.

For Fort Dodge Animal Health, workforce development is critically important to the pharmaceutical industry's ability to provide new medicines to address animal and human health problems. Berry, who initially proposed a partnership between Fort Dodge and Iowa Central Community College, said, "The shortage of trained technical workers is a critical issue for companies. Programs like RxeSEARCH enable us to reach out to high school students for workforce development."

During the three-day session, teachers will become familiar with the RxeSEARCH curriculum that uses a fictional story of an epidemic and challenges students to seek a medicinal treatment or cure. The curriculum is designed to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills through an interdisciplinary approach integrating chemistry and biology with mathematics, language arts and the social sciences. Not only does it promote workforce development by exposing young people to the nexus between education and career paths, it offers a deeper understanding of the processes and challenges of making medicines.

Speakers at the Institute include Judy Jeffrey, director of the Iowa Department of Education, and Linda Lantor Fandel, deputy editorial page editor of the Des Moines Register. The teaching curriculum will culminate with a tour of the Fort Dodge Animal Health facilities.

The RxeSEARCH program partners include Wyeth, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Schering-Plough, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Educational partners include the NJ Department of Education and several NJ school districts that helped develop the program, as well as the National Science Resources Center.

Schools participating in the Iowa Summer Institute include:

-- Southeast Webster Grand of Burnside

-- East High School of Des Moines

-- Boone High School of Boone

-- Forest City High School of Forest City

-- Fort Dodge Senior High School of Fort Dodge

-- Eddyville Blakes Burg High School of Eddyville

-- St. Ansgar High School of St. Ansgar

-- Le Mars Community Schools of Le Mars

-- Mt. Vernon High School of Mt. Vernon

-- Phillips Middle School of Prairie Lakes

-- Vinton Shellsburg High School of Vinton

-- Hinton High School of Hinton

-- Clarion Goldfield High School of Clarion

-- Schaller Crestland High School of Early

-- Northeast Hamilton Community School of Blairsburg

-- East Sac County of Lake View

-- Ames High School of Ames

-- Newell Fonda Schools of Newell

-- Sumner Fredericksburg High School of Sumner


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SOURCE Iowa Central Community College
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