Graduation Day for Students in Unique Biomedical Careers Program

Graduation Day for Students in Unique Biomedical Careers Program

July 18, 2001

(PHILADELPHIA- July 19, 2001)—A group of local students graduated today from the pilot Biomedical Technician Training Program developed by The Wistar Institute and Community College of Philadelphia. The program, the first of its kind, aims to open rewarding new professional careers in Philadelphia-area research laboratories to associate's-degree graduates while also preparing them for further academic study. Four students will receive certificates attesting to their completion of the program's requirements. Already, the program is a success: All of the students who completed the program are either working in research technician positions or continuing their education.

"We could not be more proud of the first graduating class of biomedical technician trainees," says William H. Wunner, Ph.D., professor at The Wistar Institute and administrative coordinator of the Biomedical Technician Training Program. "They embody the mission of our program, which is to prepare students of Community College of Philadelphia to play key roles in biomedical research laboratories in both industry and academia. They are prepared to enter into the field of biomedical research with confidence and a readiness to perform the required technical functions."

The innovative two-year program professionalizes the skilled technical support positions that laboratories in the fast-growing biomedical sector of the economy rely upon. Traditionally, biomedical technician positions have been held by bachelor's-degree students. The Biomedical Technician Training Program offers associate's-degree students a structured path toward research technician careers through core coursework at Community College of Philadelphia and supervised, hands-on laboratory experience at The Wistar Institute. The Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology at Temple University has recently joined the program, now in its second year, as a research training site.

The program is supported by the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, the National Cancer Institute-CURE program, The Hassel Foundation, the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation, the Barra Foundation, and the William Penn Foundation.

This year's graduates are:

Rejanne Marie LaVeaux, of University City. LaVeaux, who attended high school in Salisbury, Md., majored in science at Community College of Philadelphia. LaVeaux credits the program with providing her "further understanding of research applications and techniques used on a molecular and biochemical level in the laboratory," and says that she intends ultimately to become a veterinarian. She has already secured a full-time research technician position at The Wistar Institute in the laboratory of Dr. Ellen Pure.

Jean A. Dorsey of University City. Dorsey, who attended West Philadelphia Catholic High School, studied engineering science at Community College of Philadelphia and will be transferring to Drexel University in the fall to pursue a bachelor's in biomedical engineering. "I have learned that I do enjoy biology and science," Dorsey says. She will also work part-time at The Wistar Institute in the laboratory of Dr. Shelley Berger.

M. Ivona Chrzastowska, of Juniata Park. Chrzastowska, who attended high school in her native Poland, studied liberal arts at Community College of Philadelphia and will enter MCP Hahnemann University's physician-assistant training program in August. She hopes to be involved in clinical research as well as patient care and is pursuing the possibility of completing one of her training rotations working with Native Americans on a reservation. She completed her internship for the Biomedical Technician Training Program in a laboratory at GlaxoSmithKline. of her experience in the technician training program, Chrzastowska says, "I had an opportunity to see how scientists and their assistants work on science and inventions connected to new medications and treatments."

Natasha Rivers, of West Philadelphia. Rivers attended Bartram Motivation Center and is pursuing an associate's degree in science at Community College of Philadelphia. Rivers intends to complete additional coursework at Community College in the fall and intends in the future to pursue a bachelor's degree. "I have learned the important role that research technicians play in the labs," Rivers says.

A fifth student, Ella ofori, of University City, will also be recognized at the graduation ceremony. ofori entered the Biomedical Technician Training Program while a student at Community College of Philadelphia and completed the program's research training component after graduating with her associate's degree. She is currently working toward a bachelor's degree in biochemistry at the University of Sciences in Philadelphia. After completing her bachelor's, ofori intends to earn a Ph.D., possibly in the field of immunology.

Photos of each of the five students are available to reporters upon request.

The Wistar Institute is an independent nonprofit research institution dedicated to discovering the causes and cures for major diseases, including cancer and AIDS. The Institute is a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center - one of the nation's first and one of only ten focused on basic research. Founded in 1892, Wistar was thefirst independent institution devoted to medical research and training in the nation.