Monthly Archives: August 2011

spotlight on washingon, dc

FIELDTRIP TO THEIR FUTURE:

NIH Women Scientists  joins Foundation SCA to host field trip for DC leadership program 

-Michelle Datiles, Foundation SCA

Visitors from all over the world  take guided tours of NIH every month, but this July a group of high school students from the Program for Academic and Leadership Skills (PALS) explored not only the NIH campus but its daily world of research and science.  Drs. Patricia Becerra, Mary Frances Cotch, Myra Derbyshire and Maria Morasso of the NIH Women Scientist Advisors Committee (WSA) spearheaded this unique field trip.

Drs. Myra Derbyshire, Maria Morasso and Patricia Becerra of NIH Women Scientist Advisors Committee

“The NIH Women Scientist Advisors Committee wanted to develop an outreach initiative to introduce high school girls to NIH,” explained Becerra.  “We approached the Foundation for Social and Cultural Advancement, which led us to develop a field trip experience for teenage girls participating in its Washington, D.C. Program for Academic and Leadership Skills.”

Foundation SCA is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that partners with local institutions around the world to help girls and women live with dignity and build brighter futures for themselves, their families, and their communities through its unique, integral approach to development.  For the past three years, Foundation SCA has partnered with PALS’ umbrella organization, the Youth Leadership Foundation, which serves disadvantaged youth in D.C. by boosting academic performance while developing character and strong morals.

The field trip, created specifically for PALS, was an incredible opportunity for the young women.

Cotch explained, “In putting together the field trip, we wanted to expose the girls to a variety of activities to give them a broad perspective of NIH’s mission in science and health and to make it a fun, memorable experience for them.”

PALS high school students donned scrubs and entered several labs during their unique tour of NIH, a joint initiative of Foundation SCA and NIH WSA.

The students were welcomed by Cotch and Derbyshire, then given an overview of NIH, the health and medical research being done, and the wide array of non-science work within the institutes by Sheria Washington.   On their tour, the students met several scientists, including Drs. Jessica Bermudez and Gail Seabold, who spoke to them about their own background, offered education and career advice and described their research.

They also enjoyed an introduction to genetics with a hands-on exercise extracting DNA from strawberries with Dr. Carla Easter.  Donned in scrubs, the students were able to enter labs and see mice firsthand with Julia Drake and Drs. James Pickle and Ginger Tansey.  The day ended with a tour of the Clinical Center with Tara Mowery.

“At the end of the field trip, the girls were amazed at the many career options at NIH,” said Cotch.

Every PALS student received a souvenir gift bag from WSA with science education information, health pamphlets and a useful Primer for Women’s Health.

L-R: Michelle Datiles (SCA), Shirley Anghel (PALS), Dr. Mary Frances Cotch (NIH WSA) with PALS high school students at the end of the tour of NIH specifically designed for the PALS Summer High School program.

In addition to these thoughtful keepsakes, hopefully this experience will encourage more than one of them to work hard and pursue a career in the health professions.  It definitely opened the door to the world of medicine and science for all of them.

In thanking their colleagues, Morasso and Derbyshire, WSA co-chairs, said, “The WSA is grateful to the NIH staff who volunteered their time and made the field trip possible.”

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