Danielle Duryea, Otterbein University

Event Rewind written by Danielle Duryea, Otterbein Class of 2020. Otterbein University is a BioOhio member organization. The 2018 Women in Bioscience Conference was held on October 18 in Columbus, Ohio.

Danielle is a biochemistry and molecular biology major and Vice President of Otterbein’s Women in Science club. Her goal is to continue her education at graduate school and pursue a Ph.D in biochemistry.

Last fall, a group of fellow Otterbein University students and I had the pleasure of attending BioOhio’s Women in Bioscience & Healthcare Conference. This was a fabulous networking opportunity, as well as educational experience, where we were able to interact with, and hear the experiences of, professionals in the bioscience and healthcare fields. Visit the 2018 Conference event page for a summary of the agenda and the full speakers page for biographies and links to organizations mentioned in this post.

Throughout the conference, speakers shared their career paths. The day’s opening panel included Rozy Park of Tedia Company, Erica Conroy of CoverMyMeds, Cris LeBlanc of Xavier University, and Tracy Papenfuss of Charles River. They discussed their individual stories, explaining how they took advantage of opportunities that allowed them to explore alternate fields of interest.  This led them to very different careers than they originally planned. Speakers advised students, and those still developing careers, to take advantage of opportunities for new experiences and try things that are outside of their comfort zone.

The following panel of speakers included Jaime Fensterl of Abeona Therapeutics, Suguna Rachakonda of Cleveland Clinic, and Dr. Louise Rodino-Klapac of Sarepta Therapeutics.  They discussed how they expanded their opportunities and careers using resources in the community and personal networks. They highlighted the importance of reaching out to other professionals. Not only can networking help with a current research project, it can also lead to opportunities outside of your current field of interest.

A panel of healthcare professionals including John Barnard of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Alice Epitropoulos of The Eye Center of Columbus and The Ohio State University, Susan Sherman of The LAM Foundation, and David Taffany of Cardinal Health, spoke about the connection between research, the healthcare community, and marketable products. They highlighted the importance of patient input in improving care for diseases and disorders. Often, the divide between patients and doctors can cause problems in communication so it is critical to bridge this gap to improve outcomes. Susan Sherman talked extensively about her project to help patients with the rare disease lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), where patients were able to work collaboratively with doctors and scientists towards improving their lives.

Following a networking break, we were joined by the CEO of COSI, Dr. Frederic Bertley and President & CEO of the Great Lakes Science Center, Dr. Kirsten Ellenbogen, for a panel on STEM education. Dr. Bertley discussed how science is presented to the mainstream, and specifically to children who are minorities, from his perspective as an African American man. In today’s society it is common for kids to aspire to be famous social media stars, sports players, or actors; but there are extensive openings for careers in science. Exposing kids early to science and research can spark their interest in a career path they may not otherwise consider. Both panelists said it is important, especially for girls and children of color, to have role models to be able to see themselves as scientists. They urged women and minority scientists to take on mentoring positions where they can encourage the younger generation to develop their careers.

We wrapped up the event by building upon the education theme, with a panel on the incorporation of medical education into STEM programs, which is sometimes called STEAM education. Speakers in this discussion included Sumithra Jagannath of ZED Digital, Kimberly Clavin of Loop by Pillar, Richard Louke of Blossom Scholastic, and Meka Pace of Columbus Metro Schools. It was amazing to hear the speakers’ enthusiasm for educational programs that encourage and enable students to strive for their absolute best futures.

Overall, these successful women seemed to agree that their gender did not blatantly restrict them from their career path. There was a theme of confidence and perseverance among the panelists, but this was also paired with an openness to opportunities and experiences outside their immediate interests. Networking is important in all areas of a woman’s career. We are very grateful for the opportunity to attend this conference as a chance to practice these networking skills and to be a part of such an important discussion.

Join BioOhio on 8/23 in Cleveland for the first 2019 Diversity in Bio breakfast event. The topic will cover nontraditional pathways into bioscience/healthcare and the importance of mentors. Click for more details.

Contact BioOhio at bioohio@bioohio.com with any questions. Future events can be found at BioOhio.com/Events.