ES-M a frontrunner with new pharmaceutical class

An illness called "High School Syndrome" has hit East Syracuse-Minoa Central High School and students in a new class called "RxeSEARCH: An Educational Journey" only have until February to find, develop and market a cure.

The fictional illness is just one way the 25 ES-M juniors and seniors in the RxeSEARCH (pronounced research) program are learning about the drug development process. The program uses a novel, multi-disciplinary approach to integrated teaching and learning including biology, chemistry, math, social studies, language arts and business.

Bristol-Myers Squibb sponsored ES-M as one of only two districts in the state participating in the program. The district is one of just 46 nationwide eligible to teach it.

"The goal is to start early -- before students make their career choices -- and generate an interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers," said Nancy Rurkowski, general manager of Bristol-Myers Squibb in East Syracuse.

Through reality-based case studies and exercises, the RxeSEARCH program develops student skills in problem solving, critical thinking, decision-making, resource management and teamwork.

"Bristol is setting the stage for a whole new way of learning in the 21st century," said ES-M Superintendent Dr. Donna J. DeSiato.

The 11-lesson RxeSEARCH course curriculum follows the drug development process through the five phases of research and development -- discovery research, preclinical development, clinical development, regulatory affairs and commercialization.

"Drug development can take seven to 15 years. In a much abridged way, this program mirrors the industry very well," Rurkowski said.

At ES-M, four teachers co-teach the interdisciplinary program: Sean McGlynn, science; Sally Mitchell, science/chemistry; Tamara Reed, biology; and Darlene Baker, business. They were trained to implement the program this summer in New Jersey.

ES-M students were nominated by a teacher and then invited to participate. The half-credit class is held before school.

"This class has more to offer than others. We have more advanced discussions and more hands-on experience," said junior Christian Larrabee.

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