This is the stuff from which great movie scripts emerge. A global pharmaceutical company – Eli Lilly, headquartered in Indianapolis – partners with a local public high school in Warminster, Bucks County, to raise awareness and increase participation rates in clinical trials. Six students, with the extraordinary support of their teachers, principal and school board, present their ideas at a conference sponsored by Stanford University and have their solutions identified as on par with those presented by professional consulting firms!
With a history of having opened up a TruMark Financial Credit Union branch and a mini-ShopRite supermarket at William Tennent High School, Al Catarro, Ed. D., business education teacher and partnership guru, was primed for the next challenge. Together with Steve Beal, science lead teacher; Ignacio Jayo, anatomy and genetics teachers; Rena Friedant, art teacher; and Dennis H. Best, Ed. D., principal, the group forged a partnership with Joseph Kim, MBA, senior advisor for clinical innovation at Lilly.
“We wanted the students to have the ability to work with high-level health care professionals and to create something on their own that was open-ended and had applicability in the pharmaceutical industry,” according to Jayo.
The school received a grant of $35,000 to develop what approximated a paid internship for a seven-week summer curriculum for six juniors and seniors who were selected from a pool of 100 applicants. Chosen were Caitlin Hubmaster and John Starr, currently seniors, and William Barker, Jocelyn George, Meghan Izak and Julia Romanyszyn, all now college freshmen.
The pharma giant challenged these students to tackle two issues that plague the entire industry. The task was to raise awareness of available clinical trials and demystify the process so that more people would participate. These problems result in a $1 million a day price tag for every day the medicines are delayed, and more suffering for the patients they’re intended to help.
Working with their teachers and Kim over the summer of 2015, the students developed the concept for a healthcare app and presented their findings at the Stanford Medicine X Conference in Palo Alto, Cal. last September. The conference serves as a catalyst for advancing medicine, improving health, and empowering patients through the use of emerging technologies. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Tennent students were the only high school presenters at one of largest patient-centered conferences in the world.
With unencumbered minds and their knowledge of social media, the high schoolers used art to create an emotional connection between volunteer patients and the clinical trials that could assist them. They also developed a multimedia approach to improve trial participation. The results assisted the Lilly team to validate some ideas it had discussed. According to Kim, “They gave us the right lens to put on when we’re thinking about solutions.”
The school and its budding entrepreneur scientists were delighted to learn recently that the program has been renewed and the grant has been expanded to $65,000 this year. It will allow William Tennent, and another local public high school, to build a prototype from the conceptual ideas created last summer. And over time, the group has plans to continue expansion, with each school bringing on an additional public high school partner each summer.
The story will continue to be written, especially for the students who are receiving phenomenal exposure to real-world challenges, but this is a great example of how committed public school teachers, students, and industry are bringing science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) together to prepare the next generation to solve 21st century problems.
Back Row: Dr. Albert Catarro, Mr. Joe Kim, Ms. Rena Friedant, Mr. Steve Beal, Mr. Ignacio Jayo
From Row: Will Barker, Julia Romanyszyn, Meg Izak, John Starr, Jocelyn George, Caitlin Hubmaster
Caitlin Hubmaster, John Starr, Jocelyn George present to attendees.
A producer instructs the students on how to use equipment during their Ignite Talk.