Students exploring science careers try hand at robotic surgery in Hoffman Estates

Most of the students who got to try their hand at using a surgical robot Wednesday at Amita St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates were female.

The technology behind medical surgeries has evolved over time, but still only 19 percent of surgeons are female, according to the American Medical Association.

Dr. M. Susan Scanlon, who operates at the Hoffman Estates hospital, hopes opportunities like the hands-on learning event she helped organize will encourage more young women to seek careers in science-related fields.

"It's an opportunity where you can give a young woman a chance to see, 'What can I use with my science and math classes? How can I apply that to everyday life?'" Scanlon said. "Here is an opportunity to show them robotic technology science; surgery is a great direction they can take."

Some 80 high school students from 11 schools throughout the Northwest suburbs got to use the da Vinci surgical robot, which has two working instrument arms and one camera arm, enabling the surgeon to be in the room next door while conducting operations.

It's the second year Scanlon and her colleagues at St. Alexius have hosted students who are interested in science. Many are on robotics teams or in medical chemistry clubs.

Students who attended from Northwest Suburban High School District 214 are part of the district's medical science academy, an elective course for juniors and seniors who are interested in the medical field.

Of the 20 students currently enrolled, 19 are female.

Students shadow doctors twice a week at Alexian Brothers Medical Center and Glenbrook Hospital, and they attend class the other three days of the week.

Katy and Meghan Meredith, sisters who attend Prospect High School, were two of the student team leaders manning different exhibits Wednesday at the event.

Katy, a senior, is in the medical science academy, and Meghan, a junior, plans to apply next year.

"I think a lot of girls are realizing they can move into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) stuff," said Meghan, who plans to pursue a career as a surgeon. "Honestly, I think we're moving in the right path for women."

  Dr. M. Susan Scanlon guides Conant High School senior Isabel Garcia as she uses a state-of-the-art surgical robot during an event for high school students Wednesday at Amita St. Alexius Medical Center. Joe Lewnard/
  This is a two-dimensional version of the 3-D view that students got as they used the da Vinci surgical robot Wednesday at Amita St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates. Joe Lewnard/
  Keneni Godana, right, a Schaumburg High School junior, ties sutures with the help of Lake Zurich High School junior Katie Guy during a hands-on learning event Wednesday at Amita St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates. Joe Lewnard/
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