A medical auto-injector for heart attack patients, affordable prosthetic limbs for children and a device to reduce anxiety for dental patients were among the student projects showcased during Wednesday evening's celebration of the 61 seniors who completed the Biomedical Sciences Program at Bel Air High School.
The professional mentors who worked with the seniors on their capstone projects, along with the students' families, local elected officials, Harford County Public Schools leaders and members of the public walked through the high school cafeteria and talked with each senior who had created a detailed poster to describe his or her project.
The seniors were also honored during an awards and graduation ceremony after the poster walk-through.
The Biomedical Sciences Program is a signature program, only open to students in Bel Air High's attendance area. Participants take rigorous biology and medical laboratory science courses during their freshman, sophomore and junior years, and they spend their senior years developing their capstone projects with real-world mentors as part of the biomedical innovations class.
The Biomedical Sciences students take that course work on top of their regular Bel Air High classes, while also participating in sports and other extracurricular activities.
"They've taken rigorous classes, and they've excelled," Erica Harris, a Bel Air High assistant principal and coordinator of the program, said during the ceremony. "They've offered a lot to our school, from sports to music, drama and everything in between. They have truly been a lovely class."
The seniors, who will graduate with the rest of the Bel Air Class of 2015 on June 3, walked across the auditorium stage Wednesday for their own small graduation ceremony.
They received certificates for completing the Biomedical Sciences Program and the capstone project, along with stoles to wear with their caps and gowns during commencement.
Senior Hailey Meyer, 18, of Forest Hill, shadowed the dentists at Bel Air Dental Care – where she is also a patient – as she developed a device that patients can wear to watch movies and television shows, or a visual representation of the procedure being performed on them to educate them about the procedure and help them relax.
"The patient can have a clear idea of what's being done," Meyer said. "That helps reduce anxiety."
Hailey, who said she has wanted to be a dentist since she was a child, worked with the three dentists at the Bel Air practice, including Dr. Anthony Hamod, Dr. Gregory Indyke and Dr. Alan Scharf.
"I've always known I wanted to be a dentist," she said. "The program helped me solidify what I wanted to do."
Meyer said she enjoyed the hands-on aspects of Biomedical Sciences.
"I loved the experience, because the whole class was hands-on, and we never had lectures and we didn't have to take notes," she said.
Meyer plans to study biology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her parents, Ken and Janine Meyer, extolled the virtues of Bel Air's Biomedical Sciences Program.
"I don't think any program can prepare you better for college," Janine Meyer said. "What they've done in a few years has been unprecedented."
The program was implemented at Bel Air High School during the 2007-2008 school year, and the first class to go through all four years graduated in 2011.
This year, program administrators created a Hall of Fame for the creator of the best senior project poster in prior years and this year. The members of the hall, from the Class of 2011 to the Class of 2015, were also honored Wednesday.
Brooke Schreiber, a 2011 graduate, was the keynote speaker during the ceremony. She called her decision to apply for Biomedical Sciences "the greatest decision of my life."
"I was able to meet a ton of awesome individuals who were able to help me connect with professionals in my field," she said.
Katie Bowling, 18, of Forest Hill, is the Class of 2015 member inducted into the Hall of Fame. She worked with her mentors at the Bel Air office of Cardiovascular Associates of Maryland to develop an auto injector for heart attack patients.
Such auto injectors, which are typically prescribed under the brand name EpiPen, are usually used to inject epinephrine into people suffering from severe allergic reactions.
Kate and her mentors developed an injector, similar to an EpiPen, to give drugs to a person suffering from a heart attack before he or she arrives at a hospital emergency room.
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She said the drugs in the injector are what hospital staff would give a patient, and having the device handy drastically cuts down on the time between the heart attack and when the patient is treated.
Kate worked with cardiologist Dr. Ali Tabrizchi. She said she plans to study biology with a pre-med track at the University of Maryland at College Park.
"This program has been really rewarding because it's allowed me to meet so many people in the real medical field, and I've gained mentors and made connections with people who I hopefully will remain connected with in the future," she said.
Morgan Domanico, 17, of Bel Air, received the Biomedical Senior Award for 2015. She shadowed Dr. Lauren Henning at Pediatric Partners in Hickory as she developed a design for a "low-cost prosthetic leg" for a child amputee.
The design includes materials such as a wooden dowel, plunger cap and plumbing fasteners, Morgan said.
She said she read an article about college students who had designed an affordable prosthetic, "and that got me interested in other inexpensive ways to make a prosthetic for those who couldn't necessarily afford them."
"It really helped define what I wanted career-wise and what I was looking for in a college as well, and [it] just gave a lot of excellent hands-on experience," Morgan, who plans to study biology at Washington College in Chestertown, said.