UNO and UNMC host STEM workshop for young women

Photo by April Knipp

April Knipp

On Nov.18, UNO and UNMC held an all-day workshop presented by the Perry Outreach Program for junior and senior high school girls that have an interest in pursuing a career in the STEM fields. The Perry Initiative has held workshops at UNMC for the last three years. This is the first year the event was hosted by UNO.

The free workshop was open to all young woman with an interest in STEM fields, particularly orthopaedic surgery and engineering. Seventy applications were received from 12 local high schools.

The morning kicked off with a breakfast and presentation by Dr. Amelia Lanier, the outreach coordinator for Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) at UNO.

Lanier graduated in 2016 with a doctorate in biomechanics and movement science from the University of Delaware. Lanier says she has been inspired by other women that mentored her in her male-dominated field.

“This is truly a way to engage young women into the broader STEM fields,” Lanier said about the workshop. “Our event is part of a national effort that provides opportunities that these girls just aren’t going to get otherwise.”

The Perry Outreach Program is part of The Perry Initiative that was founded in 2009 to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM fields.

Woman make up just over six percent of orthopaedic surgeons according to 2014 survey by American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Only 13 percent of mechanical engineering bachelor degrees are held by women along with only 20 percent of all engineering degrees in the U.S.

Doctors from UNMC volunteered their time to guide participants throughout the day.

Dr. Meagan Wallace is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. She has participated in the workshop every year.

“In the past, it’s been a male-dominated field and the thought is that you have to be strong and large to be able to do orthopedic surgery,” Wallace said. “But it’s really just about learning techniques and using your skills. Woman can do it just like men can.”

After breakfast, the students were given scrubs and split into groups. Throughout the day, participants have an opportunity to practice six mock surgery modules.

At the casting module, the students were given a scenario that their patient had fallen on the ice and received an injury referred to as a fall on outstretched hand (FOOSH). They then practiced applying casts to the wrists of other students.

Other modules included ACL reconstruction, simple and complex fracture repair with plates and intramedullary nails, performing a knee arthroscopy (procedure for diagnosing and treating joint problems) on replicas of human bones and practicing sutures on pig feet.

Lanier said that her favorite part of the workshop was watching how the students develop over the course of the day.

“Some of the girls are really nervous and reserved at the start,” Lanier said. “As the day progresses, you can see their confidence grow. It’s really amazing to watch.”

Lanier said that about 80 percent of participants in the program go on to pursue careers in STEM fields.

“The girls really enjoy it,” Wallace said. “It’s a lot of fun to see young high school girls get involved in fields like biomechanics, engineering and orthopedics.”