On Sunday at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, the American Heart Association held a special STEM education program for a group of girls from area high schools.
Women representing a variety of science, technology, engineering and math fields met face-to-face with the girls in small groups. They then came together for a general session, where the panelists described their educational and career paths and fielded questions.
“I have teenage girls myself, and they are very receptive to hearing about career options and what the future looks like,” said OMRF scientist Courtney Griffin, Ph.D., who served as host and also a panelist for the event. “Putting role models of successful women in front of them can be really inspiring and transformative.”
A cardiovascular biologist who studies blood vessel development, Griffin has received research funding from the AHA for more than two decades. Among the topics, she and five other STEM professionals talked about was what advice they might give their 16-year-old selves.
“I probably wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance and encouragement I received from strong female role models,” said Griffin. “We need to do what we can to foster these brilliant, vibrant girls and help them grow and receive the encouragement they need to go reshape the future of our community and public health.”
The high schoolers are part of AHA’s Sweetheart Program, which provides educational and social programs for approximately 50 Oklahoma City girls throughout the school year. Activities are designed to prepare participants to be future heart health advocates.
“Cardiovascular disease continues to be the No. 1 killer of women; it’s important for us to close the gender gap in STEM fields because science, technology and math, those are going to bring the solutions we need for cardiovascular disease,” said Brigette Zorn, executive director of the American Heart Association’s Oklahoma City office. “We want women to be at the forefront of finding those solutions for the health of everyone.”