Tuesday, July 23, 2024

All-female student group pursuing STEM education and careers through local program

by BIZ Magazine

Eight students from local high schools have begun their yearlong research study with the Bobbie Cates Hicks Science and Medicine Academic Research Training (SMART) program. This year’s exclusively female cohort is a striking shift from the program’s early years when just one to two participants were female. Many of these students will pursue training in medical and research fields and help provide solutions to tomorrow’s healthcare challenges. 

Increasing female participation is particularly important in certain health-related STEM fields, one of the six STEM occupational clusters in which women’s representation has not changed markedly since 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2021, women were still underrepresented in health occupations such as physicians and surgeons, making up 38 percent of the workforce, and as dentists, with 33 percent, while they were overrepresented in occupations such as dental hygienists, dieticians, nurses and occupational therapists. Women made up 48 percent of life scientists, representing a slight two percent increase over 2016.

“Participating SMART students are selected through a highly competitive application process,” said John F. George Jr., M.D., BRF President and CEO. “We are proud of each class of outstanding students that moves through this program. This is a historic year with our first all-female class of students who are seeking hands-on, intensive research experience with LSU Health Shreveport (LSUHS) investigators as they explore their career interests in medicine, biomedical research and biomedical engineering. This is an inspiring group of students shining a positive light on our area.”

David Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., Chancellor of LSUHS, shared, “We are honored to have partnered with BRF since the inception of the SMART program with the goal of providing a yearlong research opportunity for those interested in medicine, biomedical research and biomedical engineering. The program has been a tremendous success with 93 percent of reporting participants majoring in or having majored in science or health-related disciplines and 81 percent reporting they plan to attend or attended a postgraduate institution. I thank our faculty who serve as mentors to these outstanding students who are making and will continue to provide meaningful contributions in the areas of medicine and science.”

In 1997, BRF launched the SMART program to provide eight to 12 academically advanced high school seniors from Caddo, Bossier and DeSoto parishes a yearlong research experience alongside LSUHS investigators serving as their mentors. Since then, the program has served more than 250 students. SMART is a partnership among BRF; LSUHS; and the Caddo, Bossier and DeSoto Parish School Boards.

Students in this year’s class are:

  • Anika Alla – Caddo Parish Magnet High School
  • Hannah Fry – Airline High School
  • Hailey Huguet – Caddo Parish Magnet High School
  • TyTiarah Johnson – Caddo Parish Magnet High School
  • Chloe Liles – C.E. Byrd High School
  • Hudson Roberts – C.E. Byrd High School
  • Cameron Tucker – Loyola College Prep
  • Anjali Veerareddy – Caddo Parish Magnet High School

The SMART program is funded through the generosity of donors, including the late Bobbie Cates Hicks, the Bruce J. Heim Foundation, Community Foundation of North Louisiana’s Give for Good donors, Community Foundation of North Louisiana’s William C. Woolf Fund, and the Magale Foundation.

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