Class photo of CWHR Girls Career Day, 2016

In early June, over 50 high school girls from around Aurora and Denver had the extraordinary opportunity to get an inside look at several centers operating on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The one-day program, “Exploring Careers in Health Care,” is hosted by the Center for Women’s Health Research and UCHealth. Its goal is to expose a diverse group of young women to careers in health care that they may not know about and to connect them with mentors who can share insight into their own career paths.

High school girls at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
High school girls at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science

The participants toured the Gates Biomanufacturing Facility, learning about stem cell therapy and personalized medicine. The Gates researchers explained how following a path of biology, chemistry or engineering could lead to unique careers in health care to treat and cure various cancers, skin and muscle diseases, and type 2 diabetes. One participant was particularly interested, noting, “This is a field that you don’t hear about on a regular basis, but has the potential to change the world of medicine and the future.”

At the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the girls heard from students about their varied paths into pharmacy and the rewarding careers for which they are training. The Skaggs students guided the girls through activities to make their own lip balm and to experiment with drink flavoring. They also had an interactive discussion with Laura Borgelt, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS, associate dean for administration and operations at Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, about the complications, challenges and opportunities in medical marijuana research.

A visit to the University of Colorado Eye Center allowed the girls to learn about eye health, diseases of the eye, and the state-of-the-art treatment and surgery happening at CU Anschutz. Using blindfolds and special glasses to simulate visual impairments, the girls helped each other through common tasks such as pouring water into a cup and typing on a keyboard. They could momentarily experience how a patient interacts with the world, and how a caregiver helps guide them through treatment.

The highlight of the day was the visit to the Center for Surgical Innovation where the girls got to try their hand at suturing and experimenting with medical instruments for surgery. One participant said, “I loved it. I came home excited and ready to learn more. It opened up my mind to medical professions I had never heard of.”

Surgical training at CWHR Girls Career Day, 2016
Surgical training at CWHR Girls Career Day, 2016

As they interacted with doctors, pharmacists, research assistants and ophthalmologists, the girls had smiles on their faces and asked thoughtful questions. “We were delighted to welcome these young women to campus. We know the importance of helping young people learn about careers in science and also connecting them with leaders and mentors in the field to help them navigate various career paths in healthcare and research,” said Judy Regensteiner, PhD, director of the Center for Women’s Health Research, professor of medicine, and holder of the Judith and Joseph Wagner Chair in Women’s Health Research.

The program is in its second year and was a tremendous success. With such high demand, the Center for Women’s Health Research and UCHealth plan to make this an annual activity.

Guest Contributor: Sarah Westmoreland, MPH, Public and Community Education Liaison, Center for Women’s Health Research

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