COVID-19 has affected many aspects of our lives, most notably, the in-person activities. When the team was brainstorming the ideas for establishing outreach initiatives this year, we wanted to create outreach/educational programs as engaging and meaningful as the in-person programs. We consulted professionals, such as Dr. Hammood, as well as our collaborators, teachers and students from Camp Sonshine and school No. 16. Through these conversations, we learned the difficulties and struggles teachers and students face during virtual teaching, such as challenges in keeping students engaged and focused. Additionally, they informed us ways undergraduate students like us could be part of the teaching process through creating and teaching interactive online modules and contents.
We acknowledge our exceptional privilege to study at the University of Rochester as well as the strong science background we have through high-quality elementary and high school education. In the Greater Rochester community, many first-generation and/or low-income Rochester School District students do not have the access and resources for such enriching educational opportunities. We collaborated with the Upward Bound program, which is a summer pre-college program designed to help first-generation and/or low-income students in the Greater Rochester area who are enrolled in the Rochester City School District, with goals for them to gain admission to college. We also collaborated with School No. 16, a public elementary school in Rochester. Through hands-on demonstrations, engaging workshops, and fun experiments, we designed a course that allows students to actively learn and explore the STEM fields. We want to motivate these students to be passionate about the sciences and have a long-lasting impact on their future academic endeavors. During summertime, before the academic year has started, we also collaborated with Camp Sonshine in Maryland to deliver engaging experiments to the campers to further their interests in science and synthetic biology.
1. Upward Bound Synthetic Biology Modules
Over the summer, we collaborated with the Upward Bound Math/Science program, one of the eight programs in the The Federal TRIO Program. It is designed to provide activities and academic programs that support and challenge low-income Rochester City School District high school students in their efforts to gain math and science skills as well as applying and gaining admission to college. The majority of academic programs are designed and taught by students and faculty at the University of Rochester. Selected students who enroll in the program are able to choose from various selections for the courses they are interested in learning over the summer. Due to COVID-19 this year, all the workshops and modules were transferred online.The team reached out to the director of the Upward Bound Program with interests in potential collaborations, which the director gladly accepted. Many high school students, even college students, are not familiar with synthetic biology and what it entails. There have not been any courses or workshops delivered in the Upward Bound Program that are related to synthetic biology. Thus, we created nine comprehensive online modules about synthetic biology for high school students participating in the Upward Bound Math/Science program. The modules include 1-2 readings, 10-15 minutes lecture, and at-home activities and questions that help students strengthen their understanding of the material and concepts illustrated in the modules. Each module also includes a Google Form where students were asked to answer the questions presented throughout the module. The nine modules covered genetics and synthetic biology basics, allowing students to be familiar with the common terminology and the techniques surrounding synthetic biology. We discussed the basic functions, application, and examples of biobricks, CRISPR/Cas9 systems, biosensors, and bioreporters. We also designed modules that reviewed the synthetic biology application in the real world, as well as leading the discussion on the ethical issues surrounding synthetic biology. There is also one module that specifically teaches students the structure of a lab report. During the module, we asked the students to write one lab report based on the DNA extraction experiment they performed at home through the protocols and videos we provided. The course overview, learning objectives, detailed course outline including the overview of each module, the links to the reading material and Google Form are listed below in the Upward Bound syllabus.
Upward Bound Material:
|Module #1: Basic biology||Module #1 PPT|
|Module #2: Basic Synthetic biology||Module #2 PPT|
|Module #3: Biobricks||Module #3 PPT||Activity form #3|
|Module #4: CRISPR/Cas9 System||Module #4 PPT|
|Module #5: Biosensors and bioreporters||Module #5 PPT|
|Module #6: Synthetic biology application in the real world||Module #6 PPT|
|Module #7: Ethical issues surrounding synthetic biology||Module #7 PPT|
|Module #8: How to write a lab report||Module #8 PPT||
Sample Lab Report
DNA Extraction Lab Report
Lab report outline
|Module #9: Introduction of iGEM and Science As Art project||Module #9 PPT||Activity form #9|
This online module-based class is also uploaded to YouTube , and is, therefore, more accessible for individuals and students in areas with limited educational resources. All the videos are also posted on the URiGEM YouTube video channel.
We received positive feedback from the students. The students who participated actively submitted their answers through a Google Form. It was unfortunate to not be able to interact with the students in person. However, after creating and teaching the materials and receiving emails from students expressing their enthusiasm about synthetic biology, we gladly found that our modules stimulated students' interests in synthetic biology and science. Some of the student’s responses of the Google Form are listed below.
Meeting with Dr. Hammond for advice in virtual program design
It was the first time for the team to design an online course. Acknowledging some of the limitations that online teaching might present, we met with Dr. Hammond to seek advice on how to design effective and interactive online courses that could overcome those potential barriers. Dr. Hammond is the assistant director of the workshop program provided by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) at the University of Rochester, with expertise in Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
Talking to Dr. Hammond gave us clear guidelines and directions on how to effectively design the Upward Bound program. He taught us how to design the course using backward design, where lessons are developed by first identifying learning objectives. Dr. Hammond also demonstrated how to design these objectives with emphasis on making them small, measurable, and achievable. Implementing backward design made our lessons more organized and clear to the learner. Dr. Hammond also taught us the designing process of an interactive, virtual course. After we told him that we were planning to present the course using Powerpoint slides, he suggested that we add interactive questions during the lectures and hands-on activities, videos, and analogies to make the class more engaging and immersive.
We followed the advice by first solidifying the objectives of each module through group discussion, ensuring the topics we cover in each module is appropriate and reasonable. Then, we created course content that satisfies the objectives through Powerpoint slides with pictures and videos. Lastly, we designed corresponding activities and questions to further help students understand and absorb the material as well as the key concepts through the objectives. We added interactive questions in our lectures and created activities for each lesson. He also advised us to create a syllabus and ask students to read relevant materials prior to the module, so in the lesson, we do not need to cover material that students could easily learn from reading.
As a result, we added 10 minutes of relevant reading material prior to every module. We also incorporated his advice on developing an awarding system for students who complete the entire module, which includes a certificate and a letter written by our advisor, Dr. Anne S. Meyer. Lastly, he suggested we give students clear instructions on what they should be completing and have all learning material consistent across the modules. As it shows on the teaching slides and the syllabus, we gave students simple and consistent instructions at the beginning of every lecture, which consisted of 1) reading the preassigned articles, 2) watching the module lectures, 3) writing the answers for module questions to the corresponding Google Form, 4) performing module activity. The clear instructions help students to follow the lectures and understand the material more effectively.
Incorporation of Upward Bound modules into AP Biology curriculum in Auburn high school
Mr. Crawford is a high school science teacher in Auburn high school in Auburn, NY who teaches AP biology and biomedical science. Through talking to Mr. Crawford, we understood that there is a need for teaching high school students synthetic biology as it is a topic that was not commonly covered in the high school curriculum. He especially loved the module where we taught students how to write a lab report as he said, “it is necessary and crucial for high school students to learn about techniques related to lab report writing.” We followed Dr. Hamood’s advice to create a more engaging module by asking students to write a lab report based on the experiment they have performed. Many high school students might not have the opportunity to perform an experiment and learn how to write a lab report. Thus in the module, we included a video of an experiment presenting how to extract our own DNA, which allowed students to easily perform it at home. In addition, a detailed guideline on how to successfully write a lab report is also included. He also suggested making the contents available in a public platform to increase accessibility and capability to reach out to a larger student population. Following his advice, we uploaded all of the contents to YouTube for public viewing. Mr. Crawford has agreed to share the Upward Bound modules with his students in AP biology at the end of the year and incorporate our material into his teaching curriculum.
Newsletter from Auburn high school featuring our collaboration with Dr. Crawford
Workshop on introducing skills in designing virtual teaching module for Purdue University iGEM team
The purpose of this workshop was to present various lessons we learned from developing an interactive and effective online curriculum through the Upward Bound project. During the Zoom workshop, we shared with the Purdue University iGEM team what we learned from Dr. Hammond at the University of Rochester, who guided us in developing our online curriculum in the Upward Bound project. More can be found on the collaboration page.
2. Camp Sonshine
Camp Sonshine is a summer day camp in Montgomery County, Maryland. We delivered four science lessons surrounding basic science to elementary students virtually. We ordered and mailed the experimental supplies to the camp, and the camp then distributed the supplies to each camper's home. We focused on hands-on learning and activity in these sessions to stimulate student's interests in science and introduce the concept of synthetic biology. Through live Google Meet sessions, we were able to interact with students and answer their questions. Although we were miles away from the students, we could still feel the enthusiasm and enjoyment from the students during the session. We made a brief PDF document summarizing and listing the experimental steps, required materials, and the implication of the science. The overview of each workshop session as well as the corresponding PDF document are listed below.
We met with 11 students aged 4-10 to teach about the basic idea of synthetic biology. We did an activity where the students were taught how to paint using ink they make themselves. We showed them how bacteria look and explained that if you change bacteria's genetic information, they can make the bacteria do new things, like producing chemicals or "sing.” The students drew their bacteria using the invisible ink made from baking soda and water and revealed their bacteria picture using a solution made from turmeric and alcohol. They were all excited to see how science works on their piece of paper. They were inspired to understand that by manipulating the DNA, the organism can gain new functions.
Learn About Cell Structure
For this activity, we had 8 students participate in the session. We did an activity where students used craft materials to create cells and learn about various organelles and cellular structures. Students were amazed by how these microscopic structures are all over their body and functioning to keep them alive and healthy. The students were taught about each structure of the cell by comparing them to the components of a city. After we finished creating our cells, we reviewed what each organelle and structure were and the students recalled how they were analogous to the city. The students even expressed interest in learning more about cells. At the end of the workshop, students were asked if they enjoyed the workshop. All students answered yes. When asked about whether they would change anything about the workshop, the students said there was nothing different they would have liked except wanting to spend more time learning about the cells!
Science as Arts
There were about 15 students attending the session for Science as Arts. We began our session with a discussion of what science is. We introduced what science includes, such as biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as what scientists do. Students told us their general definition of science, or things that are related to science. Some answers include “the explosion” “things involved with experiments” or “study of why things work”. We then asked students to use the art material we provided to express their definition of science. When we and the students were making the art, we asked students what they know about scientists and if they want to become one. Some students told us that scientists are cool as they do experiments and discover new things". They also showed interest in taking more STEM related classes in the future. At the end of the session, we asked students to share what they have made and why they think what they made represent science. Some students made flowers and plants, as “studying nature is part of science”; some students made a model of an alien, as “science allows humans to create new things that would help us”. We received various art works from students as well as their positive feedback on the session, claiming that they now have a rough idea about what science is.
Jelly Bean Genetics
We did an activity where the students learnt about the basic concept of genetics and hereditary factors. We explained to them how traits could be inherited and how the selection of the genes is random so that every person looks different. The idea was presented using cups and jellybeans, where the cups represent each person in the family tree, and 6 jelly beans per cup represent that person’s genome. The students were asked to close their eyes and choose 3 jelly beans from each parent to fill their offspring’s cup. The children were all very excited and they were sharing how they look similar to their parents and their grandparents but also how they can still be different from their siblings. They were positively amazed by our genome, but also by the fact of using edible materials in the experiment.
There were 12 students attending the session. The camp counselor told us that the students were excited about the glowing slime experiment for a week. Following the step by step instructions, students were able to make slime that glows in the dark. Some students unfortunately were unable to make a stretchy slime and were frustrated about the result. We tried to identify the problem, as some were caused by measurement error. We told students that troubleshooting is something scientists face and deal with everyday. While it is celebratory when the experiments worked, there are many moments where scientists have to analyze the problems to attempt to find the causes of a failed experiment during their research. Fortunately, after adjusting the measurement, most of the students made successful glowing slime. We also talked about the science behind slime on how slime is made from crosslinks between the borate ions in slime activators and the polymer in the glue. Students really liked the analogy of spaghetti, where we compared slime with a clump of spaghetti that tangles together. Students were excited throughout the whole experiment and told us they would want to do more science experiments in the future.
Other experiment instructionsWater_Rainbow
Overall, students enjoyed the experiment and the workshops as everytime we asked students how the workshop was, they told us they had fun and looked forward to the next session. Students were excited throughout the experiment and actively participated in the discussion and conversation. There were some areas for improvements which we recognized and incorporated for our teaching in school No.16 to deliver a more efficient and effective curriculum. The details for improvements are listed in the section below.
3. Science teaching in School No.16
Mr. Curtis Birthwright and Ms. Kathryn Frank are grade 5 teachers in John Walton Spencer School #16, in Rochester, New York. We met with both teachers in early June and began our collaboration in September when the academic semester started. Both teachers have extensive knowledge and experience teaching elementary school students. Since students are taking classes online, we delivered the supplies to the teachers, who kindly distributed the supplies to each student’s home prior to the session. We taught a total of four sessions, similar to those from Camp Sonshine, with improvements based on the feedback from the camp counselor and students in Camp Sonshine as well as the team members.
Improvements based on the Camp Sonshine
After delivering the lessons to the students in camp sonshine, we identified the issues and places where we could improve. We realized that 30 minutes per session was not enough to talk about the science behind each experiment, which we view as a vital part of the teaching. For example, in the session “learn about cell structure,” the limited time did not allow us to review the concepts with the students to check their understanding on each cell structure. As a result, we asked Mr. Birthwright and Ms. Frank to extend the session time to 40-45 minutes, which gave us sufficient time to explain the science and expand the topic. Some students were unable to receive the supplies on time, so when we collaborated with school No.16, we gave clear instructions to the teacher on how to distribute the material, as well as ordering the supplies early. The biggest change we made is creating a Powerpoint (PPT) for each session with pictures and texts that explain the science concept and the instructions. During our volunteering with Camp Sonshine, sometimes we needed phrases and instructions to repeat multiple times until students could follow them correctly. Having Powerpoint (PPT) allows the session to be more structured and easier for the students to understand the concept. We screen shared the instructions or diagrams on the PPT, so students could follow the instructions more easily. Additionally, while we explained the science concept, we tried to simplify the scientific words and relate them to a student’s experience. Overall, we received positive feedback from both the students and the teachers, who claimed they were exposed to scientific knowledge they never knew before and that the activities were extremely interesting and fun to perform. We gained permission from the teachers to take pictures of the students and post their work, thus the lecturing PPT as well as some screenshots of the zoom session and student’s work are presented below.
Lesson 1: Science as Arts
13 students attended the session, where we talked about what science is and what scientists do. With the PPT slides showing on the shared screen over zoom, it is easier for students to understand the lectures and the course content through the slide. For example, when we introduced to students different occupations in STEM fields, some were not familiar, or even heard of words such as geneticist or zoologist. However, by showing the words on the screen, we broke the words into two segments, such as gene and ticist for geneticist and zoo and logist for zoologist; students were successful guessing what jobs these professionals do. Elementary students especially enjoy competition and quizzes, so these questions style learning increase their engagement in the lesson. At the beginning of the session, when we asked students if they knew anything about science, only one student answered that it might be related to studying plants. Everyone else shook their heads and did not have much to say about their scientific knowledge. After 15 minutes of the lecture and discussion surrounding the fields and career of science, students seemed to have a solid grasp on some aspects of science. This is shown as when we asked students to draw or create arts about science, everyone got busy and started to design right away. Some created butterflies, some created chemicals, some drew the organs inside a human body, and some built a 3D model of a robotic made from wire. Students enjoyed the session. At the end of the class, students were telling us comments such as “science is fun” “I wish I could do this every day.” We were proud and glad to see the arts they have made, as well as the smiles they put on while creating such a masterpiece.
Lesson 2: Jelly Bean Genetics
The session went very smoothly and the children were very interactive. They asked questions and answered with enthusiasm. For starters, unlike with Camp Sonshine, this time we had all the material needed for the experiment. We were able to position two cameras, one on the cups that we were working on and the other on myself talking. We also prepared a powerpoint that had the graph explaining the initial placement of the jelly beans, allowing the session to run more efficiently. Additionally, the visuals on the powerpoint made it much more comprehensive for the children. We learned how to improve using feedback from Camp Sonshine. We asked students questions at the end of the session, which they actively answered and participated. children were able to understand the purpose of this experiment about how genes are heritable and that the method they’re inherited in is quite random leading to differences in siblings, even when they have the same parents.
A positive feedback from Mr. Birthwright about the session:
Lesson 3: DNA Candy
There were 10 students participating in the DNA candy experiment. All students were able to create a DNA helix from gumdrops, twizzlers, and toothpicks as well as label their nucleotides. While designing our candy DNA, we talked about how to pair nucleotides together as ‘friends’. For example, A and T are ‘friends’ so they like to stick together. Some students were interested in what happens when ‘friends’ are not together which lead to a further discussion about mutations. One student even demonstrated her new understanding of mutations. She changed the shape of her DNA by placing her toothpick diagonally between the twizzlers to show how when two nucleotides aren’t ‘friends’ they don’t fit together well and are not able to comfortably fit together within the twizzler backbone, causing a disturbance in the symmetrical DNA helix structure.
After the creation of the DNA helix, I presented a powerpoint comparing DNA to a rule book to elaborate on the function of DNA. Students enthusiastically participated by first telling me the ‘alphabet’ of the rule book (A, C, G, T) that they had learned from labeling their nucleotides. I continued to explain how this ‘alphabet’ can form 3 lettered ‘words’ or codons and many words create a ‘sentence’ of the rule book representing the gene. The students expressed different ideas of how they would change their DNA helix or own rule book to create different rules mimicking the process of synthetic biology.
Lesson 4: Cell City - Learn about cell structure
We did an activity with 10 students where we used craft materials to create cells and learn about various organelles and cellular structures by comparing them to different structures in a city. Using the feedback from Camp Sonshine, we decided to create a powerpoint to guide students through constructing their cell city. After we taught students the basics of cells, we asked them what buildings were missing from the cell city that they would like to have in their cell. This was the perfect segue into synthetic biology! We told students how, using synthetic biology, we could add new structures and functions into their cell cities. Some students wanted a gymnasium that would cause cells to do backflips, while other students wanted a nail salon to change the color of their cells. Overall, the students seemed very enthusiastic about this lesson because they just recently learned a little bit about cells in their class. They were excited to share what they already knew about cells and were eager to expand their knowledge with this activity.
This year, we were incredibly excited and fortunate to teach elementary and high school students about science and introduce to them the basic concept of synthetic biology. Throughout the process, we learnt various skills and techniques to design effective teaching materials and to deliver interactive content virtually to students. The enthusiasm of teachers and students motivated and inspired us. Students' warm greetings and their smiles when they learnt something exciting brightened our day and let us truly believe in the value of education. We are grateful for the opportunity and support we received, and would continue to strive for equal and high-quality science education for the students in the future.
Endometriosis is a disease characterized by the presence of endometrium-like tissue at sites outside the uterus, and it often induces a chronic inflammatory reaction, scar tissue, and adhesions that may distort a woman’s pelvic anatomy. Endometriosis affects approximately 10% of women of reproductive age, although estimates vary based upon low diagnosis rates. Endometriosis has an average delay in diagnosis of 11.7 years in the USA.  Women often find that health professionals normalize their symptoms and have limited knowledge of endometriosis. A substantial issue with healthcare in the United States continues to be gender disparities in the diagnosis, treatment, and funding for reproductive health care. Not only is there a lack of knowledge among the American public in regards to endometriosis, but many general practitioners and physicians claim to have limited information and training on this disease as well. This disease affects more than 200 million women worldwide and can lead to severe symptoms impacting reproductive health.  Thus, it is imperative to remember that early diagnosis of endometriosis and early intervention are the best prevention of the exacerbation of the disease. The key to earlier diagnosis, avoiding unnecessary pain, distress and possible disease progression, is awareness and knowledge of endometriosis among health professionals, patients and the community.
The need of endometriosis education
The team interacted and talked with various health professionals, non-profit organizations, and foundations that have extensive knowledge in endometriosis and have been working in the field for many years striving to make positive impacts for the community. Through our meetings, one common issue regarding endometriosis was addressed repeatedly: the lack of education about endometriosis among healthcare providers, patients, and the general public. The lack of awareness of the disease contributes to the delay in diagnosis and treatment, as well as elongation of suffering of the disease. For example, Dr. Gubbels, a gynecologist specializing in endometriosis from University of Rochester Medical Center, stressed the importance of educating teenagers and physicians (especially family medicine and pediatrics) about endometriosis, as there is not enough accessible material targeting these two groups about endometriosis education. She also suggested presenting educational material through brochures or another accessible format and distributing them to clinics and health offices. Dr. King, the director and founder of Menstrual-matters website, also addressed the importance of educating both the public and physicians about endometriosis. She stated in her email that “the main issue related to endometriosis is to not take women’s experiences of severe pain seriously, and to not provide them with evidence-based information about how best to manage/treat their symptoms as things currently stand”. Ms. Guidone, the surgical program director of the Center for Endometriosis Care and endometriosis patient, also illustrated that “many complaints from endometriosis patients were ignored, assuming they were made up or exaggerated”. She also mentioned repeatedly the spread of misleading and inaccurate information about endometriosis on social media and in the community. The team had an initial idea of designing a project that could raise awareness for endometriosis, and after the meeting with several professionals, who informed us about the lack of access to educational material in the community about endometriosis, it solidified our determination to create accessible and accurate educational material about endometriosis and to spread them widely to the community. Dr. Gubbels mentioned that “[endometriosis patients] are really touched when they find someone that just listens and takes them seriously… and that is really heartbreaking.” The team wanted to take the initiative and devote our time to be part of the advocacy for endometriosis and be the people who listen and take endometriosis patients seriously.
Creation of educational material
The team created a website, infographics and brochures that provide information about endometriosis through reviewing recently published literature. The information is tailored to target different groups: adolescents, adults, post-menstrual and health care providers as well as a section including information about general women’s health. Through our educational material, we hope more physicians will consider the possibility of endometriosis when patients bring symptoms relating to the illness and provide proper treatment and care. We also hope patients and people in the community could be more familiar about endometriosis. All of the educational material went through several revisions from experts and were eventually distributed to the community. Below is the summary of revisions and the topics we decided to cover after consultation with several organizations and professionals.
Dr. Gubbels and Ms. Guidone provided us constructive and valuable feedback for the website, brochures and infographics about endometriosis we have made through several zoom calls and emails. All of the education materials were revised multiple times by the team after receiving input from Dr. Gubbels and Ms. Guidone. We applied their suggestions to correct inconsistent and incorrect definitions and information about the disease on different pieces, updated some of the treatment methods that align with current medical care, as well as fixing grammatical issues and awkward phrasing. Through their generous help, the team was able to create contents that are accurate and meaningful to the community. The materials were approved by both professionals before distribution to the public.
General information on women’s health
Initially, we included a section targeting specifically to children; however, Dr. Gubbels suggested us to change the section to information towards the general public with the contents of introducing women’s reproductive health, as children might be too young to understand endometriosis, and the information about women’s health might be more beneficial to the audience to raise more awareness about sex education.
During our meeting with the members from Menstrual Health Hub, a female health nonprofit and social impact business, they stressed the importance of educating the public about menstrual cycle and general women’s reproductive health. They demonstrated that one of the main topics we should include in endometriosis education is helping the public to understand the biology related to the menstrual cycle and the signs indicating abnormality and potential illness. Menstrual Health hub stresses that having an understanding about menstruation is fundamental to understand endometriosis.
Through our meeting with Ms. Guidone, she also mentioned the lack of general awareness and acknowledgement around sexual health. As a result, we replaced the section that originally targeted children to a section educating the public about the science and biology of women’s reproductive health, the myth behind menstrual health, as well as other women's reproductive diseases.
Gender-inclusivity and LGBTQIA+ community
Dr. Gubbels suggested us to include a section for LGBTQIA+ population to clarify the misconception and bias in the public around endometriosis in LGBTQIA+ community. She stated that everyone with a female reproductive organ has an equal chance of getting endometriosis. Through the material, we hope people from the trans community who experience endometriosis would also receive equal, high quality of care. We designed a section specifically for LGBTQIA+ community and onlined authoritative sources for LGBTQIA+ community as well as suggestions from the physicians. Gender-neutral pronouns were used in all of the educational material, acknowledging that endometriosis impacts both trans and cis populations.
Dr. King suggested the importance of advocating for hormonal therapy. Dr. King told us that “hormonal medication and devices is not a shameful, or otherwise 'unnatural' thing for women to do”. She also informed us the importance of reassuring the patient that hormonal medications and devices do not have any long term impact on fertility. The team incorporated her suggestion and included a section where we discussed all the options for hormonal therapy and the benefits and side-effects relating to each method.
Reaching out to wide audience
Center for Endometriosis Care
Center for Endometriosis Care has reposted our posts from social media overtime on their Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram. A link to our endometriosis website page is also available on the resource page of the Center for Endometriosis Care website. The website has an average of almost 70,000 page views a month.
Nancy’s Nook Endometriosis Education
Nancy’s Nook Endometriosis Education is a facebook group that aims to educate patients, physicians and people about endometriosis with evidence based information and resources. The Facebook group has over 114800 members. We submitted our educational materials to Nancy Petersen, the administrator and founder of Nancy’s Nook group, who agreed to post our material in early November as one of the educational posts on the facebook page.
University of Rochester Medical Center and Strong Memorial Hospital
The team printed the infographics and brochures which we hang on 22 cork boards in various places around the University of Rochester Medical Center and UR Strong Memorial Hospital. We also deliver the material to Dr. Gubbels, who has agreed to place the brochure and hang the posters in the Obstetrics and Gynecology clinic.
Inner Wheel is an international women's organization to create friendship, service and understanding across the world with over 100,000 members in 102 countries. iGEM team BITS goa connected us with Inner Wheel organization India branch who shared our infographics on their social media and website on their instagram page.
Endometriosis Foundation of America
After our meeting with the Endometriosis Foundation of America, our iGEM project was introduced in their newsletter. The newsletter is attached below. The foundation has agreed to post the infographics and brochures onto their website and resource page in mid-November.
We have connected with three physicians who were excited about our project and were willing to place our brochures into their practices. We mailed the hardcopy of the brochure and infographics to the clinics and they agreed to place them in mid-November once they received the material. Pediatricians Dr. Anne Howard and Dr. Jack Lavalette will display these materials in their practice in their respective states of Virginia and Connecticut. Dr. Howard is especially excited to display these materials as she practices in a lower-income neighborhood, where menstrual health is not a top priority, and visuals in the practice can help prompt important conversations. Furthermore, Dr. Lavalette emphasized the importance of education from a young age. He also pointed out as a male doctor, he believes making extra effort to create an environment for menstruating individuals to feel comfortable sharing their experience with him is a positive step in developing patient-provider trust. The third physician is Dr. Robert Henry who is an internist in Connecticut. Materials here will reach mostly adult patients to allow for a wide patient population to engage with endometriosis education.
Educational materials are enclosed and in route to arrive at the physician’s respective clinics.
Other outreach events to raise awareness about endometriosis
Perspective in Women’s Health Panel
Our team collaborated with the Health Promotion Office at the University of Rochester to hold a panel that focused on addressing current gender disparities in health care and creating a space for students to ask questions about current issues in women’s health. We invited three panelists to our event: Dr. Terlazzo from the University of Rochester Philosophy department who teaches courses such as Philosophy in Feminism, Dr. Gubbels from University of Rochester Medical Center specializing in endometriosis and Dr. Elhadad from Columbia University who created Phendo, an app that allows patients to track and manage endometriosis symptoms. We believe with their expertise across different fields, our panel can address the issues from a diverse and comprehensive perspective. Students actively submitted questions that were answered in the panel. We were able to receive a comprehensive perspective on the issues and disparities regarding current women’s health care from the panelists.
One student asked how the current medical school or graduate school curriculum surrounding female reproductive healthcare is like and how it could be changed to address disparities in healthcare. Dr. Gubbels responded that during medical school, she only received a 3-hour lecture on the menstrual cycle (hormone fluctuations) and nothing specific about endometriosis. She claimed that medical student’s exposure to women’s health is limited in the residency program besides when residents are in the operation room with a specialist. It is impossible to make sure that everyone is exposed to all of these disease processes; however, splitting Obstetrics and Gynecology to provide more time and focus on different aspects of female reproductive healthcare might be an option. Dr. Terlazzo added that humanities education in medical education schooling is especially important. It is helpful to have a class that is devoted to thinking about the ethical and political dimensions of the problems. Students may not have time to study in-depth endometriosis but having time dedicated to thinking about issues dedicated to women, LGBTQ+, minority patients are suppressed and undertreated relative to white men. These kinds of ideas can help medical students recognize gaps in understanding and education.
Another student asked how most data on women’s health is collected and how that can be improved. Dr. Elhadad answered that there is a vicious circle with medical education lacking information on endometriosis that leads to limited data collection. Data from literature surrounding women’s health is very limited, so electronic health records are typically viewed as the best way for data collection.Online discussion boards of patients discussing symptoms and self-tracking apps are a great future direction. However, it also includes ethical considerations as it is personal data provided by individuals. It is important to protect a patient's privacy and prevent the data from being exploited. She listed an example that many pharmaceutical companies are using the data as real world evidence of side effects and indications, while Patients often do not know that the information they are disclosing about themselves is being used for research.
Another question centered on how to improve research to quickly ameliorate gender disparities with recent updates geared toward women's health only occurring in the past two decades. Dr. Elhadad expressed that an interdisciplinary approach to addressing issues in women’s health is needed. Biomedical Engineering, data informatics and computer science can all help and support data collection and analysis. There are absolute disparities in data collection for women’s health and a political conflict when scientific issues relating to women’s health are involved. Dr. Elhadad told us that she has to reword her research when it relates to women’s health. She stressed that normalization and sharing personal information is important to getting the conversation going.
There are many other incredible questions and answers in the panel that are not covered so we summarized the key points in the PDF below. When we asked the panelists how an undergraduate student like us can be a better advocate for women’s healthcare, they told us to share and discuss personal experiences because these bring attention and unique perspectives to various topics. There are many platforms and areas where a person can advocate for women’s healthcare and we need to spend more time and money on issues that affect female bodies given the underrepresentation in history. It is more difficult to focus on trans- and nonbinary individuals that may require different care than cis-presenting individuals. “Pay attention to the surrounding actions that might be replicating injustice. We are all differently positioned with different strengths. Do in good faith, be open to failure and keep trying.” Dr. Elhadad addressed.
I've gotta phD
I’ve gotta PhD is a collaborative activity started by CSMU_Taiwan and NCKU_Tainan from Taiwan focusing on public health education. Teams can choose from topics such as science communication, basic health care, mental health, etc. and participation can be in any form of work including articles, videos, podcasts, arts and so on. We submitted our brochures and infographics about endometriosis which are shared on their facebook page.