Exploring STEM Careers

Published on 27 April 2015

Index cards drove home a message about science and disease today in a lab at St. Louis College of Pharmacy. A group of two dozen students from Collinsville Middle School were each given one of three cards. One was blank, another had a large “I” and the third was labeled “IM.” After mingling in the room and signing their names to the cards, Amy Tiemeier, Pharm.D., associate professor of pharmacy practice at the College, explained what the letters meant.

Everyone with an “I” card was infected with a disease, and so was everyone they came in contact with. The only way to not be infected was to hold a card stamped with “IM” for immunity. Tiemeier used the game to begin a discussion of how vaccinations worked. The groups then spent several hours on the College’s campus learning about the different career options in pharmacy and other areas of health care. The game and discussion afterward lit a spark at lunch.

“Many of the students were talking about what they want to do in the future, what area they’d like to go into,” says Matt Blunt, eighth-grade science teacher at Collinsville Middle School.  “When you start talking about math and science careers, people can talk generally about medicine. I think exposure here at the College gives them more specific possibilities for health care careers.”

Blunt and eighth-grade math teacher Brian Haerr run the IMSA Fusion program at their school. The program is designed by the Illinois Math and Science Academy (IMSA) to motivate students interested in science, technology, engineering and math careers (STEM).

“It’s very important to let these students know about all of their options if they’re interested in STEM-related careers,” Tiemeier says. “At their age, they probably don’t have the same level of experience with a pharmacist as they do with a physician or other health care professional. Today was all about explaining how pharmacists are everywhere from their neighborhood corner drug store to the local hospital and the high-tech labs down the street, and the vital role that we play in the health care system.”

Tiemeier says pharmacy students need to have a strong math and science background to succeed in pharmacy and other health care fields. The students at Collinsville Middle School have a good start.

“The more students that I can inspire or spark an interest, even if it’s one thing that I do out of my entire year’s curriculum that they connect with, that’s my job,” Blunt adds.

Middle and High School teachers interested in bringing their class to visit St. Louis College of Pharmacy to learn more about pharmacy and health careers should contact Katie Ketchens, associate director of prospective student services.

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