The last two weekends saw graduation events from Oncofertility Saturday Academies more than 2,000 miles apart. On February 26, the academy based out of Oregon Health & Science University graduated 10 freshmen through senior high school students. The young men and women in the program spent multiple Saturday mornings this winter with Mary Zelinski, PhD, learning about fertility and cancer, practicing surgical techniques on fruit, and discussing ethical issues in oncofertility. The students also met with a 24 year-old leukemia survivor who preserved her fertility with egg banking. Though her fertility had been preserved, the survivor shared the continuing dilemmas she faces as a cancer survivor, including what to tell potential boyfriends about her fertility.
As Oregon Health & Science University is a worldwide center for research on non-human primates, Dr. Zelinski provided the 2011 Oncofertility Saturday Academy students with the opportunity to perform an ultrasound on a pregnant female monkey, an opportunity that very few scientists ever get to experience. In the last week of their academy, the Oregon students had a busy day that included making alginate beads, acting as a physician on oncofertility case studies, and presenting a final poster on a topic in oncofertility.
Just one week later, the Chicago Oncofertility Saturday Academy held it’s final events for students and their families, called Family Oncofertility Saturday Academy. The day this past weekend included rotations through laboratory activities and provided the junior and senior high school girls with an opportunity to share their knowledge with family members. A ceremony later that evening included the graduation of thirty-two high school girls and a keynote speech by Andresse St. Rose, PhD, from the American Association of University Women, who studies barriers for women in the sciences and develops recommendations to increase these numbers. The standing-room only event provided students and their parents with the opportunity to celebrate their experiences.
The Oncofertility Saturday Academy has provided the students in Oregon and Chicago with exciting experiences they can look back on for years to come. While these programs have finished and the coordinators are (hopefully) taking a much-deserved break, the University of Pennsylvania oncofertility education program has just begun its own 6-week program. We will continue to update you on the progress of these 10 girls throughout its session.