American Heart Association launches new STEM Has Heart program in Syracuse

Our community’s health is about more than just our bodies. The American Heart Association is officially launching the STEM Has Heart program to work with students and local leaders to help increase diversity in STEM fields.

“The American Heart Association is dedicated to removing the barriers to good health and wellbeing,” said Kristin Rubino, chairwoman of the Syracuse Go Red for Women campaign. “That includes closing gender gaps and increasing diversity in research and STEM fields.”

The STEM Has Heart program, sponsored by National Grid, will work to help ensure more women are at the forefront of developing science, technology, education and math solutions. The year-long program will feature regular virtual events, including a research lab tour, featuring American Heart Association funded researchers, and a STEM speed networking event to connect students and professionals.

In the fall, pending local, state and federal guidelines, the American Heart Association will host an in-person summit featuring STEM leaders and local students, as well as a STEM breakfast before the popular Go Red for Women Celebration.

Throughout the program, a regular newsletter will keep participants up-to-date on local STEM opportunities, scholarships, events, and news.

“We look forward to working with Central New York STEM leaders as we empower the next generation of brilliant female leaders and innovators,” said Amanda Terzian, chairwoman of the STEM Has Heart volunteer committee. “We need more women creating solutions for women. STEM is at the heart of what we all want for our community.”

Black, Brown and multiracial women, including those who identify as female, continue to be grossly underrepresented in cardiovascular research and STEM careers. Recent research shows women experiencing cardiac events potentially have better outcomes when treated by a female physician in the emergency room.

It wasn’t until 1993 that women were required to be included in clinical trials. Even now, only 38% of cardiovascular research participants are women, and women of color are significantly less represented.

Women make up nearly 50% of the workforce but less than 25% of STEM careers. In fact, only about 3 out of every 100 female STEM degree holders will go on to actually work in a STEM field.

During a STEM Has Heart launch event on Thursday, Syracuse University researcher Plansky Hoang shared some of her experience. Hoang has previous receiving funding from the American Heart Association for her research.

“I do realize that women and racial minorities have remained disproportionately low, not just as researchers, but in clinical trials,” said Plansky. “This is why I am so happy to be able to work in this field and be a part of ensuring outcomes are beneficial to all people. Knowing this only reinforces the need to increase representation of all demographic subgroups to ensure variations in outcomes are beneficial to all people.”

The STEM Has Heart program will extend beyond a focus on young women. Male students will be involved, as well. Young men who are Black or Brown are also underrepresented in the STEM fields, depriving our community of inspirational role models in technology, medicine and science.

“We at National Grid believe that a diverse STEM strategy should be at the forefront of our current and future workforce,” said Alberto Bianchetti, Central New York Regional Director, Customer and Community Engagement for National Grid. “STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and will improve the lives of women and all people while simultaneously stewarding tomorrow’s leaders, today.”

Anyone interested in being involved with the program, or signing up for the newsletter, should contact Trina Tardone or Kristin Thompson Henry.