During the Spring 2021 semester, the Working Group for Sexual and Reproductive Health grew its community of over 115 students, researchers, and advocates working across the SRH field through programming events, the Mentorship Program, and email newsletters. After being founded in the fall of 2019 by Saumya Sao, a Duke 2020 graduate, its goals of building a collaborative community, fostering relationships, and eliminating barriers to entry into SRH research for students were temporarily put on hold due to COVID-19. However, on March 19, the Working Group hosted 13 speakers at a virtual SRH Research Symposium, highlighting the work being done in the Triangle area and connecting students to potential opportunities for engagement. Speakers presented their current research across four themed areas—Digital Health and Data Science, Mental Health, Family Planning, and Innovations in HIV Care—and shared insight on how students can engage with the SRH field, both at Duke and beyond. Additionally, the SRH Advocacy Panel event on April 16 featured speakers from SHIFT NC, Durham Volunteer Doulas, and Durham Crisis Response Center, three organizations that conduct advocacy work and provide programming across various dimensions of SRH in Durham and the triangle area. Through a moderated Q&A session, panelists discussed the transition to virtual advocacy work during COVID-19, the role of outreach, education, and programming in affecting policy change, and tips for student involvement in the advocacy space. This Spring, students were also able to develop more personal relationships with local professionals working in the SRH field through the Working Group’s Mentorship Program, which facilitated two virtual mentor-mentee meetings.
Our goals for next semester include:
- Establishing a database of Working Group contacts and student opportunities (i.e. jobs, internships, volunteer positions, advocacy work)
- Organizing a student opportunities fair at the beginning of the semester
- Hosting in-person programming events if possible, including the SRH Research Symposium and Advocacy Panel
- Expanding the Mentorship Program
We are very thankful to everyone who participated in our programming this semester, and we hope that these events helped kickstart a new SRH opportunity or collaboration for you. If there is anything that you would like to see from the Working Group in the future, you can make suggestions here. If you would like to join the Working Group, sign up here!