Through a combination of forensics and the study of disease, students in Chet Cooper’s principles of biomedicine class at Permian High School are absorbing the possibility of a variety of medical careers.

Cooper, a former Odessa College professor in his first high school teaching assignment, said the course starts off with a crime scene so students can learn how to investigate a crime scene.

“… The whole year, we use the death of our patient Anna Garcia or the death of a person Anna Garcia, to investigate the different systems in the body and different diseases …,” Cooper said.

Students then study diabetes, sickle cell disease, heart disease, infectious diseases and the postmortem.

“Through each of these they get a little bit more of the puzzle. They learn to read medical reports and autopsy reports,” Cooper said.

Using a hands-on, project-based learning approach, the online curriculum lets students participate in activities and projects and solve problems. Many studies have shown hands-on learning helps students retain knowledge on a deeper level than just memorization.

“As the curriculum advances, and even in this first year, some of the problems that they solve are pretty intricate,” Cooper said.

A project would be doing a lab on how body temperature changes after death and a problem would be for students to explain something like diabetes and build a model to show how that works, he added.

Cooper’s class is a mixture of freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

Brittny Deanda and Kali Chesnut, both 16-year-old sophomores, and 14-year-old freshman Jerry Gillian are all leaning toward the medical profession.

“I thought it would be a really good opportunity because I’ve always wanted to be in the medical field,” Chesnut said. “I think it’s I’ve learned a bunch of stuff that I never knew. I think it was a really good experience for me.”

Executive Director of Career and Counseling Services Carla Byrne said the district is excited to offer Project Lead the Way Biomedical Science.

“We could not do it were it not for the very generous funds provided to us by Chevron. We do hope to eventually open the program up to Odessa High School, but this will depend on our annual funding,” Byrne said in an email.

“Currently, students at PHS are enrolled in the first of four courses, Principles of Biomedical Science. Next year, students move to the second year course, which is Human Body Systems. Each year, with the help of funding from Chevron, we will be able to open the next course until we have all four courses up and running.

“The third-year course is Medical Interventions and the capstone course is Biomedical Innovations. This is a rigorous program that blends health care and engineering. These students could be our future doctors and scientists who could potentially create a solution to a medical anomaly. We are so fortunate to have this program and we can’t wait to see each year’s course unfold,” Byrne wrote.