A priority of the Institute for Women’s Health Research is to develop and deliver educational experiences focused on women’s health for students and professionals at all levels of training and practice. IWHR has created an innovative educational program call the Women’s Health Science Program for High School Girls and Beyond (WHSP and Beyond). The purpose of this program is to prepare and inspire a diverse population of high school girls to become the next generation of women leaders in science and medicine. Despite many efforts over the last three decades to overcome the gender and racial/ethnic disparities the problem still penetrates our society. Thus, there is a definite need to continue to invest in the exploration and development of approaches that will once and for all change the face of the science and medical community to include more women and minorities.
WHSP and Beyond consists of four academies – Oncofertility Saturday Academy, Cardiology Summer Academy, Infectious Disease Summer Academy, and the Physical Science Summer Academy. The notion is to provide multiple opportunities for high school students to explore the basic science research, clinical application and career options of a variety of science disciplines. The academies offered in WHSP and Beyond share four common overarching goals –
➢ To actively engage high school girls in hands-on laboratory and clinical activities, college level lectures and group projects to learn and apply science concepts and inquiry skills.
➢ To empower high school girls by providing relevant and applicable learning experiences on women’s health topics that they can use to make informed, authoritative decisions about their own personal health and share with their families and communities.
➢ To provide high school girls with exposure and the opportunity to explore the wide variety of academic programs and career options in science and medicine.
➢ To support high school girls during the transition from high school into college with an on-going mentoring network of scientists, clinicians, teachers, alumni and family.
To date there have been 47 high school students who have participated in the Oncofertility Saturday Academy and 14 high school students who have participated in the Cardiology Summer Academy. The plan is to initiate the other two academies during the summer of 2010.
If we project out to 2020, approximately 650 students will have participated in WHSP and Beyond and the girls from the first cohort of 2007 will be 30 year-old women. How many of the WHSP and Beyond participants will be on track or have reached their goal of becoming scientists, doctors, or engineers? Does WHSP and Beyond have the potential to change the face of the science community?