There is a program designed to inform medical students about the impacts of misdiagnosis of ovarian cancer. It’s called Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives. And it does.
The program, created by the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, enhances medical students' understanding of ovarian cancer symptoms and risk factors, which facilitate earlier diagnosis and detection. Although the students are receiving intense training in gynecologic conditions, hearing personal stories from survivors is an emotional and highly impactful exchange.
The program brings ovarian cancer survivors into the classrooms to share their stories and key information about the disease as it affected them personally. The presenters are typically women with diverse backgrounds whose ovarian cancer was diagnosed at various stages. The survivors tell their stories to illustrate the difficulty in getting an early diagnosis – mostly because they were either dismissed by doctors or were not adequately informed about the consequences of their unattended symptoms. These experiences help the future diagnosticians put a face to the disease and will, hopefully, make a difference for women they treat later.
The program was piloted in 2002 by the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – New Jersey Medical School. Because of its powerful impact, the program has expanded to over 60 medical schools nationwide and has also been adopted in Canada for all of its medical schools.
It is remarkable that women who are living with such a physically and emotionally demanding disease will spend hours investing in the experiential learning of future doctors of women they will never meet. It is a generous and purposeful act for the betterment of mankind.
For more information about the program, go to www.ovariancancer.org.