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Spokane teachers learn from cancer researchers

Courtesy Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center
Teachers from Spokane and Pullman have learned about lab techniques working with researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

Six eastern Washington science teachers are in the lab this week learning about medical research. They’re part of a group participating in a three-week summer program sponsored by Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

For 32 summers, the Fred Hutch team has mentored teachers from western Washington. But this is the first time the program has come to this side of the Cascades. Four teachers from Spokane and two from Pullman spent last week learning about lab techniques at North Central High School. This week, they’re in Seattle, doing one-on-one research with graduate students in molecular and cellular biology.

“We have our ‘Intro to Cancer’ curriculum that was developed with our high school teachers in previous summers and they’re going through what leukemia is and what the future of leukemia treatment looks like," said Regina Wu, the manager of the center's Frontiers in Cancer Research program.

“The idea is that we’re going to build their skills so that once they get into the research lab they feel comfortable. But also that they’re best set to do the labs that we teach them and utilize the equipment that we give them," she said.

It’s the second year in the program for Dustin Fischer, a teacher at Spokane’s Pride Prep Charter School. He says he took what he learned last year and carried it over into his science lab classes.

"It changed, basically, my ability to run labs to the level that Fred Hutch provides," he said.

Fischer says students loved the chance to get away from their desks and do things for themselves.

“Hands-on lab experience that then can, potentially, someday show an interest in biotechnology and say, oh, I’ve micropipetted before. I’ve inserted plasmid into bacteria and grown it. I’ve run gels before to identify whether or not DNA is present or not, so that way we can run a PCR. Lots of stuff students are able to do now and say that they’ve done before," he said.

Courtesy Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center
Spokane teachers are among those working at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

Next week, the teachers will work in their home cities on their own projects and submit their results to the Fred Hutch researchers.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.