This outstanding program sends a team of three ovarian cancer survivors in to talk with medical and nursing students about their own experiences with symptoms before they were diagnosed. As we know, OC symptoms are often vague and easily attributed to other benign illness like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or worse, our symptoms were ignored. Our stories serve as powerful reminders for these students as they enter their careers.
Diane Riche is the New England Coordinator for STS. She kindly sent me a detailed guide to how the program is structured. I am including it below for those of you who are interested in joining one of the teams near you - or starting a team of your own! Information is also available from the OCRA website. Feel free to contact me or Diane for further info.
We hope ups choose to join the Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives®, a program of the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance! You would be joining an innovative and critical effort to educate students in health professional programs nationwide about ovarian cancer. Our goal is to increase the number of health care providers who recognize the risk factors and symptoms of ovarian cancer so that the disease is detected earlier.
As you are aware, the majority of ovarian cancer cases are not diagnosed until the disease is advanced and women’s survival is compromised. The symptoms may not be recognized early enough and too often women who are at high-risk are not identified and monitored. Survivors Teaching Students® brings the faces and voices of ovarian cancer survivors into the classrooms of health professional students to teach them about women’s experiences with the disease. We are in a unique position to help students become more sensitive to the risks and symptoms of ovarian cancer so that when they go into practice they can diagnose women sooner and save lives.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among women in the United States and causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. The majority of cases are not diagnosed until the disease is far advanced and women’s survival is compromised. Symptoms may not be recognized early enough, and too often, women who are at high risk are not identified or monitored.
To address the issue of early detection, Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance conducts the Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives® (STS) program. The goal of the program is to enhance health professional students’ understanding of ovarian cancer symptoms and risk factors in order to facilitate earlier diagnosis and detection. Betty Reiser, former Program Director and long-time ovarian cancer survivor, played a leading role in its facilitation and expansion.
STS achieves its goal by bringing ovarian cancer survivors into the classrooms of health professional students. The survivors share their stories and key information on the disease. The program is currently offered to a variety of medical and health professional students—our future diagnosticians—including medical, nurse practitioner, physician assistant and nursing students.
The program lasts approximately one hour, during which ovarian cancer survivors deliver crucial messages about the risks and symptoms of ovarian cancer. They also explain appropriate referrals for women suspected of having ovarian cancer.
- Each presentation should last one hour, and follow the schedule below:
- Introduction—five minutes (On-site Facilitator—see description below)
- Administer and Collect Pre-Evaluations—five minutes
- Presenter #1—seven minutes
- Presenter #2—seven minutes
- Presenter #3—seven minutes
- Question and Answers—15-20 minutes (Note: This is flexible and may last longer depending on time.)
- Closing—five minutes (On-Site Facilitator)
- Distribute Handouts and Administer Post-Evaluations—five minutes
- The presentation typically includes three presenters—one of whom may also serve as the facilitator—who are ovarian cancer survivors. Ideally, presenters should be women with different backgrounds and experiences. In many cases, the women who present will have been diagnosed at a late stage, but it is valuable to include women diagnosed at an early stage as well.
- The facilitator will begin the presentation with a brief introduction. Next, each presenter tells her story, illustrating the difficulty of early diagnosis and what happened to her as a result. The survivor’s story puts a face and voice to the disease, which is a powerful tool in increasing students’ understanding and recall of the facts about ovarian cancer.
- Students should gain insights into listening to patient concerns and become sensitized to the psychosocial aspects of ovarian cancer, as well as the need for early detection.
- After the presentation, the facilitator will open a dialogue between the presenters and students to enable direct and substantive interaction.
- Students are also given a brief pre and post evaluation to assess their understanding of the disease and the value of the presentation (see: Appendix).
- The STS presentation is offered free of charge to health professional schools.
The New England area currently presents at 8 schools, some are medical students (presentations are every 6 weeks) or nursing/physician assistant programs (and those presentations are once a semester). Times of day vary.
As the school schedules are given to your area coordinator she will send out a group email to see who is available on dates given.