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October 2007 Issue

Bobbi Handwerger assists Cincinnati seventh- and eighth-grade students with a chemistry experiment during a Saturday Science Academy session in September.
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Long-Time Educational Outreach Champion to Retire

Published October 2007

After 16 years of service to UC—and to more than 1,200 students and teachers interested in science—Bobbi Handwerger has decided it’s time to “catch up with life.”

The director of recruitment programming and K–12 outreach within the College of Medicine will retire Oct. 31, and she’ll leave behind some big shoes to fill.

Handwerger came to UC in 1991 from Duke University to direct graduate affairs at the College of Medicine. In 1996, after many years of interacting with students and student programming—and after conceptualizing some programs of her own—she was named to her current outreach position.

Serving as a serious advocate for science-enrichment courses at UC, Handwerger secured funding from Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to begin three programs aimed at educating middle and high school students and science teachers.

These programs—Saturday Science Academy, Excellence in Science Education and Learning (ExSEL) and Teachers’ Initiative: Program in Biomedical Research—were again awarded funding from HHMI in 2007, further securing their future success.

She also oversees three other opportunities for students—the Health Careers Exploration Program, intended for a high school audience, and the Summer Premedical Enrichment and Summer Research Scholars programs, both for college students.

Callisia Clarke, MD, former UC medical student and now a surgery resident at University Hospital, says Handwerger has done so much to attract minority students to UC and to the field of medicine.

Clarke participated in the Summer Premedical Enrichment Program when she was a junior in college and says her experience helped prepare her for the medical school application.

“The program helped me develop my interview skills and gave me an idea of what to expect from the medical school application process,” says Clarke. “It made me the most competitive medical school applicant I could be.”

Clarke’s undergraduate experience in UC’s premedical program was so important to her that, in her second year of medical school, she became a teaching assistant to help other undergrads as they prepared for careers in medicine.

“Students who move on to science-related careers—and even those who move in another direction—always seem to remember something about our programs,” says Handwerger. “I really think these opportunities make a difference in kids’ lives.”

Handwerger says she’ll miss working with the kids, because they have kept her “in the loop.”
“I love being around kids,” she says. “They’ve kept me up-to-date on the latest slang.”

But Handwerger may not stay away from kids for too long. She has grandchildren to visit and may even look into opportunities to help students with college and career planning.

She’ll use much of her new-found free time to read, garden and continue her active involvement in her synagogue. Traveling, Handwerger says, will also be a priority. She’s looking forward to visiting Alaska and China, and is already planning a trip to Israel in January. 

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