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By: Margaret | April 7 2010 | Category: Science Lite, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers


Women Are Scientists Poster CompositeI’ve been interested in the underrepresentation of women in certain careers since college, when I minored in women’s studies. As a working mom, I’m also interested in how women balance career and family life. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed the NIH Women Are Scientists video series so much. It highlights successful women scientists and doctors who have overcome obstacles—including physical disabilities—and achieved a rewarding career and a healthy work-life balance.

This award-winning series—which is FREE and can be downloaded or viewed online or on DVD—was developed by a colleague here in the office and former high school science teacher. The videos—geared toward middle school students—are fast-moving, showing the rapid pace of an emergency room or genetics lab, the  intricacies of surgery, the calm intensity of a psychotherapy session, and more. Anyone can use them—teachers, guidance counselors, students, physicians—at career days, science clubs, etc. This series is a partnership between the Office of Science Education and the Office of Research on Women's Health.

One of my favorites is the Women Scientists with Disabilities video. I loved learning about women like Bertha Melgoza, who lost her sight from a childhood illness and faced a tough future in Mexico. Over the course of nine years of weekly transfusions, Melgoza’s doctor spurred her interest in sociology and encouraged her to attend his lectures. With this foundation, Melgoza asked herself: “What do people do to turn this pain into strength?” Now she is a successful clinical psychologist in the U.S. with a husband, a son and a full spiritual life.

Always a fan of Star Trek, I enjoyed the introduction to the Women Are Researchers video, narrated by Gates McFadden, who played Dr. Beverly Crusher in the TV series. McFadden introduces three real-life extraordinary women researchers who have overcome gender, ethnic, and physical barriers to become successful biomedical researchers. One of those researchers, Judith Pachciarz, was initially denied the right to attend college decades ago due to her hearing impairment. But that didn’t stop her. She went to court to gain admission and went on to earn an M.D. and a Ph.D. Her advice to young girls: “Look at every obstacle as something to be overcome to develop your character.”

Even my daughter, who’s only 10, was captivated by the fictional detective story of a teenage girl in the Women Are Pathologists video. The girl learns about the field of pathology as she discovers that her sister has cervical cancer and is keeping it a secret. We see pathologists working in the subspecialties of forensic, surgical, and academic pathology.

Each of the other two videos—Women in Dental Research and Woman are Surgeons—also shows three amazing women performing life-saving surgery, fighting AIDS, conducting research, teaching new physicians, and giving children free dental care and offers glimpses into their private lives.

I think young women seeking role models for success in medical science would be really inspi red by t his series. I’m eager to hear what you think of the videos and how you use them.
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