A Day in the Life...
In Contemporary Issues in Biomedical Science this semester, students are learning about the groundbreaking discoveries that will change the form and direction of health and medicine for years to come. The students all have health professions in mind, and participation in this course should help inform them of breaking news in science just in time for their professional school admissions interviews.
This week the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded. John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser, and Edvard I. Moser are being honored for their work in discovering how the brain recognizes spatial location – a sort of “GPS” in the brain. The announcement on Monday coincided with completion of a major assignment in the Contemporary Issues class. Each student selected a Nobel Laureate from recent years and completed a research-style poster on their story, their work, and the ramifications of their discovery for the future of health and medicine. From Sydney Brinner’s work with C. elegans to Elizabeth Blackburn’s studies of telomeres, from Stanley Prusiner’s discovery of prions to Fire and Mello’s transforming work on RNA gene silencing and Robert Edward’s opening the world of in vitro fertilization, all are showcased as defining discoveries with long-term impact.
These posters are being displayed in the Finch-Gray Science Center in time for this year’s McMurry Homecoming weekend. Friends and alums will be able to see the emphasis we are placing on giving our BIMS students an education that is current and vital and geared as much toward “what will be” as it is in “what is past”. We hope you will drop by for a look!
It has been a long time since the last BIMS page post back in November. Part of the reason is the busyness of the end of the semester, the Holidays, and other diversions at the end of the year (after all, there ARE 35 bowl games!). But a big part of the reason is the tragic and untimely death of someone very important to the early days of the BIMS program. One of our first three BIMS graduates was Lauren Bump, the first recipient of the Danny Cooley Award for the outstanding BIMS student. After graduation in Fall 2010, Lauren was accepted into Physician Assistant programs and entered Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas to begin that journey. She was home visiting her family in her beloved San Antonio when she lost her life on New Years Eve at the hands of an attacker in a park near her home.
Lauren was gentle and kind and encouraging and joyful. She loved science and medicine and she loved Jesus. The kind of young lady you’d love to have as a daughter or daughter-in-law. No vanity, no arrogance, no conceit, no jealousy. There are too few people like her in this world, and losing one of them affected people who knew her (and many who didn’t) in profound ways. I found out of her death from one of her McMurry classmates on New Year’s Day, and like so many others in Abilene and San Antonio and Arkansas felt an emptiness and sadness that I still carry around. You see, at small Christian colleges like McMurry and Harding, we don’t just teach students but we invest in them. We give generously to them everything we’ve learned for the purpose of growing them as young men and women and future scientists and healthcare providers so that they may one day do far greater things for this world than we have. And when one in whom we’ve lovingly placed so much of ourselves and our experiences and in whom we find so much hope is taken from us, our sense of loss is great. But in the midst of loss, there is victory for Lauren as she sees her Savior face to face.
Her funeral was attended by over 1,200 and 300 gave their lives to that same Savior, having seen in her life lived for Him the very things missing in their own. Even in the midst of her death, The Redeemer brought new life to others. A life of love and service and faith is never wasted, and so it was with Lauren’s. In my church on Sunday we were shown a video that portrayed the truth that our lives touch those of many others we will never know – a sort of “It’s a Wonderful Life” truth beyond our understanding. I was reminded of Lauren and reassured that her life of love and service and faith was not wasted – countless others have (and will be) impacted by the life she lived.
So, how do we move forward? Many initiatives have begun in Lauren’s memory – fundraising for a variety of things near to the hearts of Lauren and her family. At McMurry, Lauren’s club sisters in Gamma Sigma have begun planning for a fitting tribute, one that is not just a memorial with a name but a living memorial that seeks to perpetuate her beautiful spirit so that those who could never know her will learn what it means and what it gains when one seeks to “#livelikelauren”. The Biology Department has begun discussions of how we might honor future students whose commitment to a life of healing, hope, faith, and service carries on the legacy of this beautiful child of God. We give thanks for having known her and shared life together during her time in Abilene. Bye, Lauren, until we meet again.
It is a common misconception that those who teach have a summer of rest and leisure. Anyone who has taught knows that is not close to true for many. Rather, summers are times for exploration and experimentation to update and improve courses. It is when new things have to be tried out before decisions on fall orders are made. It is a time when upgrades to the curriculum are made.
With that in mind, I want to report on some of the things we are looking forward to for the fall in the Biomedical Science program.
- Summer research. One thing that moves on during summers is research, something difficult to do along with other responsibilities during the school year. The photo accompanying this post is of Heather Rawls, the first Beasley Summer Research Scholar, who has been in the lab all summer working on her Honors research project. She is not alone, as Kendra Williams also worked on her Honors research involving molecular biology this summer and Bradley Rowland continued his research internship on nanoparticles and drug delivery at the TTU School of Pharmacy. Heather’s work, centered on germination of Bacillus thuringiensis spores, has given her greater insight into the frustrations and exhilaration that define research. They, and three other BIMS students, will participate in Honors research this fall and spring.
- Medical Terminology courses. I know this is not exactly new, but it is certainly fairly new. Dr. Sharp has worked out the kinks to providing online beginning and advanced courses in medical terminology.
- Online Microbiology. Drs. Wilson and Benoit spent sabbaticals last year developing online microbiology labs and lectures for allied health majors. Though the courses will not be available until 2014, much of the ground work is done and is being tested and finalized with classes this year. This initiative is in response to mandates in some states that all components of pre-nursing programs be delivered online for convenience and cost-savings. For a sneak-peak, visit www.micro-online-complete.com.
- Food Microbiology. Dr. Wilson is offering an advanced microbiology course this year over food microbiology. Students will make foods with microbes, test foods, preserve foods, and investigate means for creating safe kitchens. A guide to safe kitchen practices for college students will be the final product of the class.
- Pre-Health Professions preparation. Based on the success of our freshman-/sophomore-level Pre-Professional (PREP) seminar, we have decided to develop a follow-up course focusing on admissions test preparation, application completion, shadowing experiences, and additional interview preparation. Our goal is to improve MCAT, DAT, PCAT, GRE, etc. scores, to further polish application essays, and to build confidence in interview skills for our students. Armed with a new endowed fund for supporting PREP activities, additional enrichment activities such as trips to visit medical and other professional schools, and the like.
- Certificate in Pre-Health Professions Studies. One idea gaining strong interest is the creation of a co-curricular certificate for students who pursue courses and experiences outlined in a pre-health professions certification program. Early ideas on this include courses in medical ethics, mental health, wellness, and the usual prescribed courses for pre-health programs… sort of a body, mind, spirit approach preparing students for the profession of meeting healthcare needs of the next generation. More on this as we better define the program.
So, it is clear we have not been sitting on the beach this summer. Much is afoot for BIMS!