Hope College presented biology seminar “Current Issues for Women in Medicine and Science-Let’s Discuss.” The seminar was led by Dr. Kanakadurga (Durga) Singer ,visiting from the University of Michigan medical school. Dr. Singer was hosted by Hope’s Ginny McDonough, professor of biology and department chair.
She received her undergraduate degree in biophysics from John Hopkins University and her medical school training from the University of Michigan. Singer is currently Assistant Professor in the department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and Division of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of Michigan.
Singer’s research focuses on the mechanisms driving obesity-induced myelopiesis, sex difference in obesity- induced inflammation and understanding the impact of obesity on the immune system of children and adolescents.
On the topics of women in medicine, Singer shared, “Being a woman researcher and a pediatric endocrinologist I have often felt like a minority.”
The STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workforce is pivotal to the country’s innovative capacity and global competitiveness. Even with such importance, women are immensely underrepresented in STEM jobs, despite making up nearly half of the country’s workforce and half of the college educated workforce.
According to the Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey (ACS), women comprise four percent of the United States workforce but just 24 percent of the STEM jobs. This leaves an untapped opportunity to expand STEM employment.
Cultivating the discussion topic of women in STEM, Dr. Singer received guidance from Dr. Sally Camper in 2015 to form a peer group of Women in Diabetes and Obesity Research. Singer shares, “As a group, we planned a women in Basic Science panel discussion. The discussion was amazing.”
“I realized that gathering trainees and junior faculty and getting advice and guidance from leaders could make an impact by helping answer questions and also form new connections.”
From there, Singer, along with her fellow female colleagues, brainstormed how to further impact the women in academia. Singer partnered with leaders at Michigan Medicine to further create events that support, create discussion and connect women.
Singer shared that connecting with women and addressing the issue empowered her.
“As I became a faculty member, I started contacting many of the successful women role models in basic science and diabetes research at the University of Michigan. I felt that with each conversation about their career paths, I gained a wealth of information from their real-life stories that I would never have been exposed to.”
There is always more to be done in supporting and encouraging women in STEM. Singer inspires Hope students to pursue these methods of connections and discussion.
The goal is to take the discussion past women and involve men and other leadership roles, as this is a system issue not a woman issue.
The idea is that these discussions can lead to ideas that can be taken into the working groups by individuals and be put into opportunities for change.