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With a growing need for science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals, Penn State is fostering an interest in these fields among high school students through the Epidemiology Challenge, a program within the Department of Public Health Sciences at the College of Medicine.
Through a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health, Penn State’s Early Preparation and Inspiration for Careers in the Biomedical Sciences (EPIC) program’s Epi Challenge offers area high school students a look into the world of epidemiology, used in biomedical and public health research. At the same time, Penn State Hershey researchers are tracking the students’ interest, progress and aptitude for science careers.
“There’s a decrease in people pursuing these careers and majors,” said Andrea L. Stennett, Penn State coach for the Epi Challenge teams at Middletown Area High School.
EPIC is the product of a collaboration of experts in epidemiology, secondary education, and career development, representing Penn State, Montclair State University, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Educators and administrators at five area high schools have been instrumental in shaping the EPIC program, including Middletown, Cedar Cliff, Lower Dauphin, John Harris and Sci Tech.
According to the National Science Foundation, the country may face a crisis due to an eventual deficit of epidemiologists – specialists who study the causes and effects of public health issues.
Through the course of the Epi Challenge, teams of students from the five area high schools identify an important health-related topic, develop a hypothesis, create a research proposal, gather and analyze data, and draw conclusions regarding their study results.
While growing up in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, James Powell M.D., ’92, knew he wanted to be a doctor from an early age. His experience with his own childhood pediatrician, Robert Childs, M.D. (also an alumnus of the College of Medicine as he completed his residency in 1975), was another deciding factor for Powell.
As an undergraduate and a College of Medicine student, Powell had the opportunity to shadow Childs and James Caggiano, M.D., ’77, at their Hazleton pediatric practice when he was home on weekends. This experience, along with the wisdom of his College of Medicine advisor, Cheston Berlin Jr., M.D., was influential in Powell’s decision to study pediatrics.
Powell received his undergraduate degree in molecular and cell biology from Penn State. Unsure of a specialty when he started at the College of Medicine, it was this background that ultimately led him to choose pediatric hematology/oncology.
He completed his pediatric residency at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, followed by a fellowship at Duke University Medical Center in pediatric hematology/oncology.
In 2003, he returned to the Medical Center to work in the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. During that time, Powell was instrumental in starting a sickle cell disease clinic. He also spent time working with several satellite clinics, including Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College.
He served on the Penn State Alumni Association’s Alumni Council from 2004-2010 and the College of Medicine Alumni Society Board of Directors from 2005-2010, which was a way for him to give back and stay connected.
“It’s important for me to give back to the school that helped me get where I am today,” Powell said. “I’m glad I chose Penn State for both degrees since I received an outstanding education.” (more…)