Posted by on July 12, 2010 - 9:41am

L-R:    Shaquita, Dr. Carla Pugh, Megan,  and Nicole

The Oncofertility Summer Research Fellowship 2010 is now in full swing (check out this post for more details)!  Our three Oncofertility Saturday Academy alumni undergraduate students, Nicole Miles, Shaquita Webster, and Megan Romero have been hard at work, both at the bench in Dr. Woodruff's laboratory and learning about many social issues surrounding women's health and oncofertility.  Last week, Dr. Carla Pugh presented her work on the use of technology to improve clinical skills education at the IWHR Monthly Research Forum, and Shaquita, Megan, and Nicole wrote the following post on their thoughts about the event.  Enjoy!

On June 22, 2010 at the Institute for Women’s Health Research Monthly Research Forum,  Carla Pugh, MD,  Assistant Professor of Surgery and Associate Director of the Center for Advanced Surgical Education here at Northwestern University, spoke about some of the anxiety and concerns first year medical students face when performing pelvic, prostate, and breast exams.  She stated that the major reason many medical students are so apprehensive to administer these ‘intimate’ exams is due to their lack of experience, as many are fresh out of college. As a first year medical student they are bombarded with information on the anatomy of the human body. However, in order to become a good physician one must not only have an understanding of the human anatomy but also how to perform a physical examination.

With this knowledge Dr. Pugh developed numerous pelvic, prostate, and breast anatomic models linked to sensors. These sensors are linked to computers that display where and how much pressure is applied to various anatomic features of the pelvic, prostate, and breast models.

Dr. Pugh demonstrated that the leading cause of anxiety for second year med students was fear of missing a lesion. Due to breast cancer’s prominence in women, the fear of missing something during a clinical breast exam can be a particularly anxiety-causing. Dr. Pugh also commented on the differences between the ways that clinical breast exams are performed by male and female practitioners, in terms of the time spent and amount of pressure used during the exam.

What makes the mannequins so amazing is that the sensors are placed inside model’s vagina or rectum, and as students' fingers move along the anatomy, they can see the location of their hands on a screen. "When you put your finger in someone's rectum for the first time, you think you know where the prostate is, but you don't," Pugh said. "Several things in medicine are assumed to be learned in time, but I think we can do better than that. You can't teach everybody everything in a lecture format."

Dr. Pugh’s inventions have revolutionized the world of medicine in various ways. But there was one thing that she had not mentioned.  After the seminar, we asked Dr. Pugh how her models are used outside of the classroom and whether they are available to local community centers so that women who don’t have the resources to get to a doctor can visit the center and teach themselves how to perform the exam.  We believe the breast models, in particular, would be beneficial to individuals in the community.  If women are able to give exams on the models it will help encourage self breast exams and promote early detection. While she was amazed by such a great thought, her response was that she had not had the opportunity to do so.

After a discussion with Dr. Pugh, we were interested in finding a way to get the breast  models out into the community.  Throughout our fellowship in the Woodruff lab, we are beginning to understand that the best way to learn any concept is by teaching it to someone else. We suggested creating a community outreach portion for her medical students.  Unfortunately, Dr. Pugh has no control over the curriculum nor does she have enough time with the students to implement such a plan. However, she stated that she would love to have our help to make it possible. With our mentors as our witness, taking Dr. Pugh's breast models to community centers across the city in efforts to increase early detection of breast cancer is now a goal in the making!

Dr. Pugh is also featured in an article in this week's Chicago Tribune.

Authors:  Megan Romero, Nicole Miles, and Shaquita Webster (Oncofertility Summer Research Fellows)

Posted by on July 29, 2009 - 9:01am
OSA students learning laparoscopic techniques

OSA students learning laparoscopic techniques

A priority of the Institute for Women’s Health Research is to develop and deliver educational experiences focused on women’s health for students and professionals at all levels of training and practice.  IWHR has created an innovative educational program call the Women’s Health Science Program for High School Girls and Beyond (WHSP and Beyond).  The purpose of this program is to prepare and inspire a diverse population of high school girls to become the next generation of women leaders in science and medicine.  Despite many efforts over the last three decades to overcome the gender and racial/ethnic disparities the problem still penetrates our society.  Thus, there is a definite need to continue to invest in the exploration and development of approaches that will once and for all change the face of the science and medical community to include more women and minorities.

WHSP and Beyond consists of four academies – Oncofertility Saturday Academy, Cardiology Summer Academy, Infectious Disease Summer Academy, and the Physical Science Summer Academy.  The notion is to provide multiple opportunities for high school students to explore the basic science research, clinical application and career options of a variety of science disciplines.  The academies offered in WHSP and Beyond share four common overarching goals –
➢    To actively engage high school girls in hands-on laboratory and clinical activities, college level lectures and group projects to learn and apply science concepts and inquiry skills.
➢    To empower high school girls by providing relevant and applicable learning experiences on women’s health topics that they can use to make informed, authoritative decisions about their own personal health and share with their families and communities.
➢    To provide high school girls with exposure and the opportunity to explore the wide variety of academic programs and career options in science and medicine.
➢    To support high school girls during the transition from high school into college with an on-going mentoring network of scientists, clinicians, teachers, alumni and family.

To date there have been 47 high school students who have participated in the Oncofertility Saturday Academy and 14 high school students who have participated in the Cardiology Summer Academy.  The plan is to initiate the other two academies during the summer of 2010.

If we project out to 2020, approximately 650 students will have participated in WHSP and Beyond and the girls from the first cohort of 2007 will be 30 year-old women.  How many of the WHSP and Beyond participants will be on track or have reached their goal of becoming scientists, doctors, or engineers? Does WHSP and Beyond have the potential to change the face of the science community?