Girls Inc. STEM Program Shows the Way to a Bright Future

It’s back to school time, but some lucky girls in New York City will be hitting the books with a greater knowledge of the sciences and the opportunities for women in STEM careers. This summer, Girls Inc. of New York City ran a pilot Summer Institute of its Eureka program, which provides STEM education to low-income and minority girls.

One especially exciting aspect of the program was a field trip for about 20 middle and high school-age girls to the Department of Orthopaedics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. A highlight of the field trip was meeting Leesa Galatz, M.D., System Chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who held a Q&A with the girls. Galatz is the first and, so far, only female chair of an academic orthopedics department in the U.S.

Michael Rice, Founding Partner of LifeSci Advisors, which sponsored the pilot program, says Girls Inc. and the Eureka program fit into LifeSci Advisors’ “broader framework to enhance gender diversity in the life sciences space.” Rice also attended the field trip.

Rice also attended the field trip. “It was awesome watching these girls do some of the lab work and hearing their questions,” Rice told me. “It was cool to see them identifying with the lecturers and research assistants and taking advantage of the opportunity to ask questions, take part in experiments, and be part of the discussion.”

The hands-on nature of the field trip left an impression on Dulcina Laplante and Maryrose Alajo, two high school sophomores I spoke with recently. Both were impressed with Galatz’s struggle to become an orthopedic surgeon, a male-dominated field. Dulcina, 14, noted that Galatz found support in her mentor and family. Maryrose, 15, who was initially nervous about attending the field trip, now sees a possible future for herself in orthopedics.

“We saw ligaments and met orthopedic doctors. We touched the spinal cords of a turtle and a whale–the actual bones. We split the DNA of a rat’s tail,” Maryrose recalls.

“Hands-on exposure to the STEM fields is critical for empowering our young girls to pursue careers across the sciences,” Galatz said in a statement. “It is an absolute pleasure to share my experiences, offer guidance to the next generation of medical professionals, and assist with the important work that LifeSci Advisors and Girls Inc. of New York City is doing to support young women.”

To learn more about Girls Inc., visit its website.