The Clara Bliss Hinds Society at SMHS

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Members of the GW Clara Bliss Hinds Society stand together outside

Twenty-six percent of the STEM workforce is female, according to the Association of Women in Science. This statistic, shared by Jean Miller, PhD, during the October 2019 meeting of the Clara Bliss Hinds Society at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), underscores the need for greater representation of women in science. 

Miller, an assistant professor of communication at the GW Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, served as the speaker during the meeting and led a brief workshop on public speaking. She said that only 8–9% of STEM-related YouTube channels are hosted by women, an important statistic to consider since a greater number of young people considering careers in science and health care are viewing educational videos on the website.

Miller shared that her own granddaughter enjoys YouTube’s educational video channels. “Wouldn’t it be great for her to see more women presenting scientific information?” she asked.

The Clara Bliss Hinds Society for Women in Medicine and Sciences at GW is a career and leadership development organization within SMHS aimed at enhancing the work environment for women and promoting equity in promotion, tenure, and recognition of women throughout the school, as well as promoting networking and mentorship opportunities. Membership in the society, named for one of the four women to successfully petition for admission to the school in 1884, is open to regular full- and part-time faculty of SMHS.

“Dr. Clara Bliss Hinds graduated from the School of Medicine in 1887,” said Victoria Shanmugam, MD, associate professor of medicine and chair of the Clara Bliss Hinds Society. “She forged the way for women at GW and we are proud to name this society in her honor.”

The society was established as a chapter of the Group on Women in Medicine and Sciences — a unit of the American Association of Medical Colleges — by the Task Force on Women Faculty. The task force was formed by Jeffrey S. Akman, MD ’81, RESD ’85, vice president for health affairs, Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, and dean of SMHS, in July 2018 and led by Jean E. Johnson, PhD, RN, Dean Emerita of the GW School of Nursing. It included basic sciences, clinical, and health sciences faculty.

“I am excited to see the formation of the Clara Bliss Hinds Society,” said Akman. “This is a great step in our effort to work toward greater diversity and facilitate more opportunities for women faculty throughout SMHS.”

In addition to Shanmugam, the founding executive committee includes: Chavon Onumah, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine; Rebecca Lynch, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology, immunology, and tropical medicine; Nadine Mbuyi, MD, assistant professor of medicine; Kathleen Ogle, MD ’08, assistant professor of emergency medicine; Lisa Schwartz, EdD ’10, associate professor of biomedical laboratory sciences; and Kirsten Brown, PhD, associate professor of anatomy and cell biology.

“I think a group like the Clara Bliss Hinds Society can help support our diverse faculty’s career development, enhance the work environment, and hopefully aid in the retention and promotion of women in medicine and health sciences, is integral for a preeminent institution since diversity drives excellence,” said Onumah, who also serves as the vice chair for the Clara Bliss Hinds Society.

The society hosts monthly in-person meetings and uses them as an opportunity to bring in expert speakers from within GW and to focus on leadership skill development. The November meeting, for example, featured a workshop on self-promotion through enhancing one’s CV and also working on drafting executive letters of support for grant proposals and professional awards. For its February 2020 meeting, the group has invited Barbara Lee Bass, MD, RESD ’86, incoming dean of SMHS, to address the society.

“We have great plans for the society,” said Shanmugam. “We hope to see membership grow and we hope to engage some of the incredibly successful GW alumni in coming back to share their experiences and strengthen the environment for women in medicine and health sciences at GW.”

In addition to monthly meetings focused on women faculty members, the society was also charged with developing an Annual Women in Leadership event at SMHS, which will be held in June 2020.  

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