Obama praises Feinberg’s women in science program

Kris Anne Bonifacio

President Barack Obama recognized Tuesday a Feinberg School of Medicine Program that encourages high school girls to pursue careers in the field of science.

The Women’s Health Science Program for High School Girls and Beyond was one of the recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. The WHSP, which was co-founded by Northwestern scientist Teresa Woodruff, will receive $25,000 and will join the other award recipients at a White House ceremony later this year.

“I was so thrilled that the President recognized the importance of mentorship and presented us with the award,” Woodruff said.

Woodruff founded the program with science teacher Megan Faurot in 2006, when Faurot took one of her classes to work alongside Woodruff in her laboratory. The WHSP now offers four science academies to Chicago Public School high school girls.

At the Oncofertility Saturday Academy, 11th and 12th grade students learn about the female reproductive system. They work with scientists and university students in various experiments, including mouse dissections. The WHSP also offers the Physical Science Weekend Academy, which allows high school girls to learn about how tobacco, alcohol and drug use affect human beings.

During the summer, the program offers two academies: One on infectious diseases and another on cardiology. Both summer academies include laboratory experiences, such as dissecting a heart and testing bacteria, and public health discussions on the real world effects of heart disease and HIV.

About 20 to 30 girls attend each academy, Woodruff said.

The WHSP has also expanded its programs across the nation, working with schools in Pennsylvania, San Diego and Oregon to offer similar academies outside Chicago.

Woodruff said WHSP plans on using the $25,000 award from the National Science Foundation to help fund the four academies.

“We’re going to invest it in our high school education program to ensure that more girls can come to our programs throughout the year,” she said.

The program was one of the eight recipients of the Presidential Award in 2010. The White House announced the 2010 to 2011 winners Tuesday, awarding nine individuals and eight organizations across the country for their mentoring efforts in the past two years.

“Through their commitment to education and innovation, these individuals and organizations are playing a crucial role in the development of our 21st century workforce,” Obama said in the release. “Our nation owes them a debt of gratitude for helping ensure that America remains the global leader in science and engineering for years to come.”

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