High School Girls Pursuing Science and Health Careers Attend a Professional Meeting: 2009 Illinois Women’s Health Conference

Aryana, Kathryn, Jenaun, Estella and Geeleeyaw at the 2009 Illinois Women’s Health Conference.

Aryana, Kathryn, Jenaun, Estella and Geeleeyaw at the 2009 Illinois Women’s Health Conference.

On Wednesday, October 28, 2009, five high school senior girls, who are participants of the Women’s Health Science Program for High School Girls and Beyond (WHSP), whsp.northwestern.edu, attended the 2009 Illinois Women’s Health Conference, http://www.idph.state.il.us/about/womenshealth/events.htm, in Oak Brook, Illinois.  To be selected, the high school girls had to write essays to explain why they wanted to attend the conference.  All the girls shared very thoughtful and meaningful reasons for wanting to participate in this opportunity.  To highlight a few of the student responses, Jenaun shared that she wanted to attend because she is still undecided on her college major and career choice and thought that participating in the conference would broaden her knowledge of the healthcare career options. Geeleeyaw thought that this would be a good opportunity for her to meet new people and talk to clinicians about her interests in pursuing a career in the healthcare field.   Lastly, Aryana wanted to attend because she is passionate about women’s health and wants to play an active role in supporting and improving the health of women.

The high school girls gained valuable and useful experiences and knowledge at the conference.  Upon arrival the high school girls checked in and received their conference nametag, bag, and materials.  The high school girls attended multiple sessions, including:

  • Cardiovascular Disease in Disparate Populations: The Facts – and What We Should Do
  • Breast Cancer – Reconstruction After the Fact
  • Energy for Life: Strategies for Peak Performance and Whole Body Wellness
  • Nutrition and Women’s Health – Health Foods or Healthy Foods
  • The Practical Clinical Approach to Women’s Sexuality

Students were expected and encouraged to take notes and ask the presenters questions at each of the sessions.

At the end of the day, the girls completed the conference evaluation form and submitted it to the conference staff.  They all expressed that they greatly appreciated this opportunity because, as the only high school students in attendance, they were able to get firsthand experience interacting with real healthcare professionals.  With the two educators who coordinated the opportunity, Megan Faurot, Director of Education Programs at the Institute for Women’s Health Research, and Kathleen Grimes, Science Department Coordinator at Young Women’s Leadership Charter School, the girls discussed what colleges they were applying to and how they plan on pursuing their career goals.   Kathryn wants to pursue a career in animal science and Estella is planning on combining her love of cooking and science to become a dietitian or nutritionist.   WHSP will continue to support and encourage all of these girls as they make the transition from high school to college and beyond to become the next generation of women leaders in science and medicine.