Dr. Andrea DeMaria and Dr. Beth Sundstrom are co-directors of the Women’s Health Research Team at the College of Charleston. If you dropped either of their resumes on your foot it would hurt. A lot. And if you’re going to have a chat with them, you better have a good breakfast because you’re going to need it to keep up.
DeMaria and Sundstrom are two empowered women on a mission to empower other women. Actually, they’re on a mission to empower everyone, so nobody is excused from their elevating tractor beams. DeMaria and Sundstrom met in 2012 and realized they shared a passion for giving women a voice in their reproductive decisions.
“When women have control over their bodies they have control over their lives,” Sundstrom says.
Together they created the Women’s Health Research Team, whose purpose is to investigate women’s health issues, foster interdisciplinary collaboration, and share research findings at both a clinical and lay-level. So that’s what they’re doing, but it’s how they’re doing it that will blow your mind.
“The way we get work done is progressive in that we’ve developed a system for 25 people to do individual and team-based research,” Dr. DeMaria says.
Their innovative model involves a research team composed of faculty and students passionate about understanding a women’s world from a holistic standpoint. The team includes communication experts, public health professionals, historians, anthropologists, biochemists, psychologists, and others who have a window on how women think, interact, and make decisions about their health.
For example, as part of a campaign to increase bystander intervention in sexual assault, this team recently drew on the functions of Yik Yak, a social media app that allows users to participate in anonymous discussion threads with other people in a 5-mile radius. The team is also working on how to erase cervical cancer, how telehealth technology can help at-risk women gain access to healthcare, how social media influences women’s health decisions, and about seven million other game-changers.
So, women of South Carolina, prepare to be empowered.
Words by Robin Howard
Photo by Karson Photography