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Dr. Sonya Reid inspires students to make their path in the world

The global percentage of women among science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates is below 15% in over two-thirds of all countries, as reported by the United Nations Children’s Fund. This past year, the effects of COVID-19 emphasized how important digital platforms are for learning, and yet, 2.2 billion people under 25 do not have internet access at home, with girls being more likely to be cut off as the gender gap in global internet usage continues to grow.

On Oct. 11, International Day of the Girl seeks to raise awareness of this issue with the 2021 theme: Digital Generation. Our Generation. Throughout the world, women trailblazers in the STEM and technological fields are working to highlight gender and socioeconomic inequities.

"Girls know their digital realities and the solutions they need to pave paths to freedom of expression, joy and boundless potential. Together, let’s widen these pathways so that this generation of girls can become a generation of technologists."

- UNICEF on International Day of the Girl

One such trailblazer, Dr. Sonya Reid, spoke to Harpeth Hall students in a special all school assembly on Oct. 1. In recognition of the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Reid talked about the disparities in the treatment and care of breast cancer patients.

Dr. Reid is an assistant professor in the Hematology/Oncology division at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She is currently completing a breast cancer research program in Jamaica while investigating the genomic differences that may contribute to racial survival disparity in breast cancer patients. At Vanderbilt, she is focused on healthcare disparities in breast cancer and was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. award in recognition of her work in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Growing up in Jamaica, Dr. Reid said she was on a “small island with big dreams.” Inspired by a core tenet in her all-girls’ high school that encouraged students to have “reverence for others,” she knew that she wanted to make a difference and help others. Her dream has transformed into a passion for equity in healthcare, specifically with breast cancer treatment.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lives, making it the most common cancer among women. Of these women, black women are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer. This was not always the case. This shift can be traced back to the 1980s when new therapeutic advances to treat and diagnose breast cancer became more accessible. Access, however, was not equitable, creating a disparity gap driven by social and economic inequities.

Dr. Reid’s ambition is to help close this gap. She called on the “bright, young minds” in front of her to help create change, no matter the field they choose. She advised students to believe in themselves and what they have to offer. Dr. Reid concluded, “if you have a passion, go for it, make your path in the world.”