On May 21, as part of the Connecticut Science Center Women in Science program, CICATS' Dr. Linda Barry, Assistant Director and Chief Operating Officer of CICATS, was giving the keynote speech for the #DaVinciCoder Girls-only Hack-A-Thon in Connecticut Science Center in downtown Hartford. During the speech, Dr. Barry talked about academic medicine still has low number in women and underrepresented minorities. She also shared her own story to becoming a surgeon. One of our missions is to collaborate in creating a learning environment where underrepresented minority individuals and women can thrive in STEM. We also encourage mentoring to support women throughout their academic and professional experiences, and supporting efforts to retain women in the STEM workforce.
On April 23rd, the Urban League of Greater Hartford Young Professionals in Partnership with professionals from the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS) at UConn, Wesleyan University, Southern New England Association of Technical Professionals, and Capital Community College hosted the 1st Annual Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematical (STEAM) Career Expo in downtown Hartford, CT. The STEAM Expo gave local students the opportunity to learn real world applications of math, science, and engineering and encourage students to pursue a career in the STEAM fields. The event was also designed to encourage students to enter the pipeline and eventually pursue careers in these fields, creating a diverse workforce of future leaders in STEAM.
Dr. Linda Barry, Assistant Director of CICATS, and several members from CICATS and the Institute for Regenerative Engineering (IRE) participated in the Career Expo. During the event, they shared their real research and clinical experiences with young people in Hartford. One of our missions is to ensure that young people in our community have mentors and to encourage them to pursue STEAM for their careers. IRE provides high-school and college students with numerous research opportunities in our laboratories. Each summer, we recruit students who are interested in medicine, dental medicine, engineering or biomedical research to participate in our research programs.
Last year November, it was a privilege and honor to speak to the Dr. Joseph Henry Tyler Jr. Society of the National Medical Association in Lafayette, Louisiana. I was selected as a National Medical Association (NMA) Living Legend by the group. During this trip, I also spoke to a large number of Lafayette high school students. My message to the students centered on my own story: the good effects of role models and what traits encourage success. The traits I emphasize are: being wise, hard working, being a good person and showing loyalty, being courageous, and being resilient.
On June 13, the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS) at UConn, in partnership with the Connecticut Legislative Black and Puerto Rican Caucus and the W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute, hosted the National Health Disparities Elimination Summit here at UConn Health. The summit’s theme was “Keeping It Real: Real Solutions, Real Change.” Our aim was spearheading an important dialogue and generate actionable solutions to eliminate health disparities. The summit provided an opportunity for stakeholders to learn from and engage with national champions in the fight to eliminate health disparities. One of the summit’s major goals was building on the collective knowledge of our speakers and presenters to foster a lasting network of collaborative partnerships among the researchers, physicians, students, and community leaders who attended.
As the CEO of CICATS, I thank everyone involved in the summit for their phenomenal work organizing this event over the past months. I appreciated all the distinguished speakers who shared their expertise and insights on the causations of health disparities and the avenues for change. I also thank the Connecticut Legislative Black and Puerto Rican Caucus for their long-term support on our CICATS programs.
On May 13, Stan Simpson, host of “The Stan Simpson Show” on Fox CT, invited me to be a guest on his show. The program is an entertaining and insightful talk show which focuses on current affairs. It airs Saturdays at 5:30 a.m. and can also be seen on the web, www.foxct.com/stan.
During the interview, we discussed raising awareness about racial inequities in health care and how to eliminate health care disparities in minority communities. Thank you to the wonderful team at Fox CT and to Stan Simpson for conducting the interview.
On February 21, I gave the keynote speech at the symposium sponsored by the T. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society at Inlet Grove Community High School in Riviera Beach, Florida. This event featured healthcare, science, and engineering professionals giving career-exploration talks to elementary, middle and high school students from Palm Beach County. My talk focused on career offerings in both healthcare and STEM. The symposium was a wonderful success. The T. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society is comprised of dedicated healthcare professionals working together to improve health and wellness, access to quality care, academic and career opportunities, for underserved populations. I hope every student took advantage of all R. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society had to offer on the symposium day. I want to thank the organizers and, in particular, Dr. Roger Duncan for inviting me to participate in this wonderful event.
On October 7th, the Anti-Defamation League presented the Torch of Liberty Award to Mr. Max Javit and me. The award recognizes individuals who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to community, justice, and equal opportunity for all. I was deeply honored and humbled to receive it.
The ADL was founded in 1913 to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Now one of the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agencies, it fights anti-semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals, and protects civil rights for all. I am very pleased to be associated with the ADL and its membership. It is an amazing organization.
It gives me great pleasure to announce that Keshia Ashe, a chemical engineering student in the Institute for Regenerative Engineering, was recently awarded the 2013 Individual Student Service Award given by the Connecticut Higher Education Community. Colleges and universities around Connecticut annually recognize individuals and groups who design projects which serve a community, incorporating originality and unique approaches, substantially raising student participation, and addressing community problems.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and William R. Dyson, chair of the Connecticut Commission on Community Service, presented Keshia with the award, siting her passion and dedication to inspiring, encouraging, and supporting students’ pursuit of STEM degrees. She founded ManyMentors, a nonprofit which aim to close the gap between minority and female interest and achievement in the STEM fields by connecting students to mentors and role models. Her social innovation bridges traditional in-person mentoring efforts with online and mobile components to create sustained mentoring between middle school and high school students and near age mentors in STEM.
With a group of nearly 30 mentors, ManyMentors has reached over 400 students in the Greater Hartford area, and plans to reach more as the organization establishes more partnerships with community leaders in the STEM education fields. I am very proud of Keshia for her contributions to STEM education. I am looking forward to future successes as she and others continue to serve as inspiring role models and mentors.
In late May, I had the privilege to give a talk entitled “Moving Forward with Science” to future scientists from kindergarten to high school at the Connecticut Science Center. This year, student science projects from 31 Hartford city schools participated and the science fair was held at Annie Fisher School in Hartford, CT. The best science projects, as determined by more than 100 judges including five volunteers from the Institute for Regenerative Engineering, were honored at a special awards ceremony at the Connecticut Science Center.
One of my career missions is to ensure that young people in our community have mentors and to encourage them to pursue medicine and science for their careers. Our Institute at UConn provides high school students and college students with research opportunities in our biomedical science laboratories. Each summer, we recruit students who are interested in medicine, dental medicine or biomedical research to participate in our research program. Through extensive training, students acquire knowledge on how science is conducted and where science is heading in the future. As a mentor for many of these young people, it is a real pleasure for me to see them grow to become scientists or physicians one day.
I recently participated in collaborative meetings between the U.S. and India on developing new innovative affordable technologies for treatment of diseases. The meeting took place in New Delhi. The meeting was opened by Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health who gave an outstanding lecture on new affordable medical devices fostered by N.I.H. funded research.
Our Institute has been very involved in collaborative activities in India. Professor Swami Sethuranum, Dean at SASTRA University in India received his Ph.D. from our group, while Professor Dhirendra Katti of the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur was a postdoctoral fellow and Assistant Professor with us. Currently Dr. Lakshmi Nair of the Institute for Regenerative Engineering is a co-Investigator on a major grant under the U.S.-Indo Forum.
While in India I had the opportunity to meet with Michael Cheetham, the Director of the U.S.-Indo Forum who has collaborated with our group for over 15 years. The program in New Delhi was sponsored by his organization, and we are grateful for his support.