CHICAGO --- A Northwestern Medicine program for mentoring urban minority high-school girls for college and careers in science and health was awarded the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring by President Barack Obama. The mentors will receive the awards at a White House ceremony later this year.

 The Women's Health Science Program for High School Girls and Beyond, a five-year-old program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, targets primarily African American and Latina girls from disadvantaged backgrounds in Chicago. The young women can study at four different Northwestern academies: cardiology, physical science, infectious disease and oncofertility. The girls’ science program is part of the Institute for Women’s Health Research at the Feinberg School.

 "We're delighted that President Obama recognized the impact of mentoring the next generation of female scientists and leaders and are humbled by the recognition of this award,” said Teresa Woodruff, director of the Institute for Women’s Health Research and the Thomas J. Watkins Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Feinberg. “By helping women and girls we can help change the world."

 The White House award recognizes the crucial role mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science and engineering—particularly those who belong to groups that are underrepresented in these fields. By offering their expertise and encouragement, mentors help prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers, while ensuring that tomorrow’s innovators reflect and benefit from the diverse talent of the United States.

 “Through their commitment to education and innovation, these individuals and organizations are playing a crucial role in the development of our 21st century workforce,” President Obama said. “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.”

 Of the 90 students who have participated in the Women’s Health Science Program from the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School in Chicago, 18 are seniors in high school, 70 are attending college, and two have received undergraduate degrees.  Of those attending college, 51 percent are pursuing science majors.   

 Woodruff plans to expand the science program to other high schools in the Chicago area. The program also has grown beyond Chicago through Woodruff’s efforts.  Similar informal education programs based on the Chicago model are now running in San Diego, Portland and Philadelphia.

 Woodruff, a reproductive endocrinologist, researches female reproductive health and infertility and is chief of the division of fertility preservation at the Feinberg School. She also leads the Oncofertility Consortium, a national a team of oncologists, fertility specialists, social scientists, educators and policy makers to translate her research to the clinical care of women who will lose their fertility due to cancer treatment.  In addition, she has been an advocate for sex and gender inclusivity and study in basic science, translational studies and clinical trials.

Relevant WHRI Programs: