Carpe Diem: Reflection on Girls’ Science Discovery Day 2014

On the morning of May 10th, 104 girls from 29 Vermont schools excitedly rushed through the doors of UVM College of Medicine accompanied by their chaperones. After helping themselves to a breakfast of bagels, fruit, and muffins, the girls met peers from across Vermont here for Girls’ Science Discovery Day, an annual event presented by the UVM College of Medicine’s chapter of the American Medical Women’s Association. Part of AMWA’s mission is to support the advancement of women in medicine. Girls’ Science Discover Day aims to provide girls in Vermont with early exposure to the fields of science and medicine. This year, AMWA organized the largest gathering of middle school girls since the inception of the event over two decades ago.

First up was keynote speaker Dr. Sharon Mount, who gave a wonderful presentation that captured the theme of the day: Carpe Diem. Dr. Mount encouraged the students to explore their interests, whatever they may be. Having majored in Classics and taken only one Intro to Biology class in college, Dr. Mount followed a non-traditional route but eventually landed in the field of medicine.

After Dr. Mount’s enthusiastic speech, the students broke off into small groups to get to know one another through icebreakers. From there, they rotated through five stations: “Parts is Parts,” “Explore the Blood,” “Say ‘AHHH,’” “Lessons from the Dead,” and “Simulation Center Tour.” During “Parts is Parts,” led by Dr. Ellen Black, Dr. Diane Jaworski, Dr. Lauren Arms, and medical student Sarah Waterman Manning, the girls explored the anatomy and physiology of different organ systems. In “Explore the Blood,” Dr. Paula Tracy showed the girls how the blood clots. In “Say ‘AHHH,’” the girls had the opportunity to interact with medical students who took on the role of standardized patients. The girls learned how to take a medical history and work their way through a diagnosis. Dr. Rebecca Wilcox led the pathology workshop in “Lessons from the Dead,” comparing diseased and normal organ specimens. On the “Simulation Center Tour,” Dr. Cate Nicholas and her team assisted the girls in simulated laparoscopic surgery, colonoscopies, emergency response to tachycardia, and ear examinations.

At end of the workshop rotation, the girls celebrated a day of learning and discovery with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, courtesy of the Davis Center.

As AMWA leaders, we found the event to be just as fulfilling as the students did. We were particularly touched when one of the attendees stood up and thanked us for organizing the event, indicating the positive impact that the event had had on her. We were grateful to hear that the medical student volunteers and faculty also enjoyed themselves. We are looking forward to another successful Girls’ Science Discovery Day next year!

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