Biomanufacturing Program Shows High School Students Multiple Career Paths in Organ Transplantation
Photo: Wilson High School students and chaperones in front of OneLegacy headquarters in Los Angeles.
On a Monday morning in January, 22 students from Long Beach’s Wilson High School started their day much differently than usual. They arrived at the headquarters of OneLegacy, the largest federally-designated Organ Procurement Organization in the U.S., to embark on a three-hour tour exploring the growing field of biotechnology and biomanufacturing.
The tour was arranged as part of the Biomanufacturing Technician (BMT) program, a unique collaboration between CSU campuses in Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Fullerton. The Office of Professional and Workforce Development at CSULB’s College of Professional and Continuing Education took the lead to coordinate the special visit to OneLegacy, which is advancing the science of human organ donation and transplantation by employing technological innovations that make the process safer and more accessible.
“Week in, week out, you can see new technologies coming out of this field,” said Sagil James, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at CSU Fullerton, who joined the tour. “The only way you can get such knowledge or exposure is from visiting and speaking to experts from the industry. That’s why we put together a program to develop a skilled workforce for Southern California.”
Working with 215 hospitals, 11 transplant centers, and diverse communities of 20 million people throughout Southern California, OneLegacy facilitates and educates about the donation process of organs, eyes, and tissues while offering long-term support for the families involved. The company was recently recognized for their contribution to the Donate Life Rose Parade® Float, which won the 2023 Sweepstakes Award in the world-famous annual event.
The students were welcomed by Tom Mone, previous CEO of OneLegacy and now the Chief External Affairs Officer and Vice President of Foundation Operations. He explained the company’s history while students toured its various departments to learn how the organ donation and transplantation processes work.
“I was so impressed with the knowledge that the students from Wilson High School came here with and their understanding of elements of our field,” Tom said. “Opportunities in health, science, and medicine today are so broad. I love thinking of the future as being open to all sorts of new possibilities.”
Photo: Tom Mone, Chief External Affairs Officer &Vice President of Foundation Operations at OneLegacy, gives Wilson High School students a tour of his company's facilities.
Students were introduced to OneLegacy employees including the Family Care Coordinator and HR Recruiter, who provided further access to their busy workplace, and then they received a presentation on quality and regulatory affairs. Students discovered career opportunities in the biotechnology and biomedical field—including future job openings at OneLegacy—that they did not know about before.
“This tour has inspired me a lot,” said Wilson High School student Annabel Hong, “because I didn't really fully understand all the job opportunities that are out there—not just being the doctor, but also being the bridge that connects the patient to the doctor or whoever is taking care of them.”
“The most surprising thing about organ donation that I learned today is how much goes into the transportation of the organs and how they need to get to their destination safely and efficiently,” said Lucas Lopez-Colón, another Wilson High student. “This tour did inspire me for my future career because I learned how many jobs go into even just one category of biomedical science and technologies.”
The BMT program and its three CSU campuses are planning to continue working with industry partners to bring college and high school students to tour other biomedical and biomanufacturing facilities in Southern California, connecting students' classroom learning to real-world experience in the industry.
“My job is to hopefully educate and inspire people to feel okay talking about death and to be able to express their wishes [about organ donation],” explained Christy Bethel, Public Education and Community Development Specialist at OneLegacy. “There [are] a lot of soft skills involved, a lot of emotional intelligence, which is one of the reasons why we're so grateful to have the opportunity to partner with Wilson High School and Cal State University. Science technology is always growing, so I look forward to seeing what the future generation can do in that regard.”
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