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Six IU School of Medicine students, faculty and staff received 2024 Women’s History Month Recognition Awards from the IUPUI Office for Women.

Women's History Month honorees advocate for equity

Award winners on stage with plaques

2024 Women's History Month Recognition Awards, presented by IUPUI Office for Women (photo by Joseph Franklin)

“Women who advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion” is the theme for this year’s National Women’s History Month, and the Indiana University School of Medicine boasts six award-winning advocates.

Medical student Brooke Stephanian, PhD student Soumilee Chaudhuri, staff member Tiffinie Snowden, MA, and faculty members Francesca Duncan, MD, MS, Andreia Alexander, MD, PhD, and Caroline Rouse, MD, were honored by the IUPUI Office for Women among recipients of the 2024 Women’s History Month Recognition Awards on March 26. The office annually recognizes women on the Indianapolis campus for their leadership, achievement, advocacy or service in support of gender equity, women’s empowerment, women’s history, or cultures of inclusion.


Student winner: Soumilee Chaudhuri, PhD candidate

Soumilee ChaudhuriChaudhuri is co-founder of the IMPACT Indiana initiative, a student-led initiative to engage lawmakers and community leaders in conversations about Alzheimer’s research and its implications for public policy and drug development. Her research focuses on the impact of heart-based lifestyle risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease in multiethnic populations, and her interests include health equity in geriatrics and psychiatry. In 2023, Chaudhuri was awarded the Stark Neurosciences Research Institute Women in Neuroscience (WIN) Research and Career Development Award, and she presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) national conference. She also volunteers with Exodus Refugee.

Question: How does it feel to be selected as a recipient of the Women’s History Month Recognition Awards?

Answer: I am humbled to be receiving this honor and dedicate it to all the hardships immigrant women of color have to endure to make space for themselves in the field of science and medicine.

Q: Who are the women in history, or in your personal sphere, who have most inspired you?

A: I am deeply inspired by my mother, who raised me in India with wonderful teachings of why education is key for the advancement of women. I also carry in my heart all my aunts, sisters and cousins back home who became strong women in their own right. I am motivated by all of my friends from high school in India, who I thought were my competition while growing up in an all-girls school environment, but who later taught me to support fellow women in every aspect of my life. At IU School of Medicine, I am inspired by women every day — from fellow researchers to colleagues to teachers, the list is endless. I would like to specifically mention Dr. Karmen Yoder and Dr. Tabitha Hardy for being incredible scientists for me to look up to and leading by example. I am also motivated each day by the phenomenal women at the Indiana Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.


Student winner: Brooke Stephanian, MD candidate

Brooke StephanianStephanian is an innovator. A research project she started as an undergrad at Johns Hopkins University led to a seven-person medical device startup that invented a new surgical instrument for cartilage graft processing, now used in operating rooms in several countries. Stephanian is a founder and co-president of Indiana’s first aerospace medicine organization for medical students and residents. As an IU medical student, Stephanian co-authored three resolutions for the Indiana State Medical Association tackling Hoosier health care affordability and accessibility. At the national level, she co-authored an American Medical Association resolution encouraging voting rights for incarcerated individuals.

Q: What are your research and clinical interests?

A: My engineering background has propelled my interest in translational research, particularly in developing medical innovations that can improve patient care. … I’m currently working on projects that aim to bring solutions to surgical challenges in underserved areas internationally and exploring the field of aerospace medicine. My research and clinical interests lie at the intersection of technology and medicine, with a strong focus on how these tools can be used to address health disparities and improve outcomes for patients.

Q: What message do you have for women in medicine?

A: I believe medicine needs diverse voices to address the complex health challenges that we face. Embrace your unique insights, advocate for yourself and others, seek to solve problems, and never underestimate the impact you can make. While any path may present challenges, believe in your vision and remember that you stand on the shoulders of trailblazing, often unrecognized, women leaders who continue to pave the way for us.


Newcomer Staff winner: Tiffinie Snowden, MA

Director of Equity and Inclusion, Center for Inclusive Excellence at IU School of Medicine

Tiffinie SnowdenSnowden came to IU School of Medicine in 2023 as the school was launching the Center for Inclusive Excellence. She brought experience in DEI initiatives with the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center. Over the past year, Snowden has successfully recruited a dynamic team, filling several key roles for the Center of Inclusive Excellence. As a new staff member, she quickly became an active leader in several organizations, including the Black Faculty and Staff Council at IU Indianapolis and the LGBTQ+ Advisory Council at IU School of Medicine.

Q: How have you advocated for equity, diversity and inclusion at IU School of Medicine and beyond?

A: I can honestly say much of my work is oriented around these important values that I am excited to share with the school. In efforts to positively co-create a more equitable health care landscape for all Hoosiers, I work closely with partners in various units across the school, university, IU Health, and within the community to enhance inclusive excellence.

Q: Who are the women in history, or in your personal sphere, who have most inspired you?

A: I am inspired by all the Black women scholars I've read, referenced and repeat. Their courage to do the unpopular thing to advance society is the reason why I'm here doing this work alongside great colleagues for the next generation of scientists, researchers and physicians.


Newcomer Faculty winner: Francesca Duncan, MD, MS

Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine, Division of Pulmonary Medicine

Francesca Duncan in white coatDuncan joined the IU School of Medicine faculty in 2021 after completing her fellowship in pulmonary and critical care at IU. As a fellow, she was an organizer of the “White Coats for Black Lives” march and presented at the American Medical Women’s Association national meeting. In July 2022, she became co-chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee in the Department of Medicine and has helped organize events for the Women in Medicine and Science Group. Duncan’s research focuses on disparities in lung cancer incidence, treatment and mortality, and she has launched a grant-funded lung cancer screening initiative for underserved populations. She is a physician with IU Health and an associate member of the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Q: Who are the women in history, or in your personal sphere, who have most inspired you?

A: I stand on the shoulders of so many unsung heroes. My mother is truly one of my biggest inspirations. I admire her work ethic, ambition, her faith, and how she selflessly gives to others. I also admire Dr. Lauren Nephew who has been an exceptional mentor to me. Seeing her do so many amazing things in her research and academic career allows me to see what is possible for me as well.

Q: What message do you have for women in medicine?

A: Continue to believe in yourself and strive for excellence. And as you continue to make your mark in medicine, remember to help others along your journey. I’m rooting for you!


Veteran Faculty winner: Caroline Rouse, MD

Assistant Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology

Caroline RouseRouse has been a faculty member since 2017 and serves as medical director of maternity services at the Riley Maternity Tower (a partnership of IU Methodist Hospital and Riley Hospital for Children) and as the medical director of the Riley Maternal Fetal Medicine Outpatient Clinic. She is one of only 17 providers in Indiana designated as a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, providing pregnancy services to the highest-risk patients in the state. In her statewide leadership roles, Rouse serves on the Indiana Maternal Mortality Review Committee and is legislative co-chair for the Indiana section of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Rouse helped launch the IU Health Reproductive Health Rapid Response Team and is the primary responding physician.

“I can imagine no other person who has been more of an advocate for women and health equity in the state of Indiana over the last five years,” wrote her nominator, Gabriel Bosslet, MD, MA, assistant dean for faculty affairs and professional development at IU School of Medicine.

Q: Who are the women in history, or in your personal sphere, who have most inspired you?

A: My mom, Dr. Mary Rouse, is a true inspiration. She graduated medical school at a time when there were very few women and has since distinguished herself as an expert in the care of people with eating disorders. She started and continues to lead IU Health’s only eating disorder clinic, which has been providing excellent care for over 20 years. She is a tireless advocate for her patients and her colleagues. She is also a loving and patient mother to her kids, grandma to her grandkids, and wife to my Dad, Dr. Tom Rouse.

Q: What message do you have for women in medicine?

A: Always stay true to yourself and most importantly find your people — the ones who will support you when you need it, who you will support when they need it, and with whom you can make real progress and change for the betterment of our patients and ourselves.


Veteran Faculty winner: Andreia Alexander, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine

Andreia AlexanderAs a physician scientist, Alexander’s research focuses on reducing sexual and reproductive health disparities in the emergency department. In her role as assistant director of the Emergency Medicine Residency, Alexander created and implemented microaggression simulation curriculum and helped recruit a diverse class of interns for 2023-24 that is 50% female — rare in that field. She also serves as director of the Health Equity Training Pathway for graduate students at IU School of Medicine. Beyond IU, she chairs the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee for the Indiana State Medical Association; she is a member of the Committee on Reproductive Health, Equity and Society for the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine; and she serves on the Physicians for Reproductive Health Board of Directors.

“I feel incredibly grateful and humbled to be recognized alongside so many inspiring women who have made significant contributions to DEI at our institution and in our community,” Alexander said. “Whether it’s curriculum development, mentoring, health policy advocacy, research or clinical practice, I make it my unwavering mission to advocate for marginalized persons in everything I do.”

Q: Who are the women in history, or in your personal sphere, who have most inspired you?

A: Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsberg is my biggest female identifying inspiration. I am inspired on a daily basis by so many of my female identifying colleagues and mentees. However, my son, Nic, although not a woman, is my absolute biggest inspiration.

Q: What message do you have for women in medicine?

A: Believe in yourself and your abilities. Your voice matters. Know that you are part of a community of strong, capable women who are making a difference in the world of health care. Embrace the challenges, celebrate your successes, and never lose sight of the impact you can have on the lives of others!

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Laura Gates

Laura is senior writer with the Office of Strategic Communications and loves to tell the stories of outstanding students, faculty and staff at IU School of Medicine. A native Hoosier, she has over 25 years of experience in communications, having worked with newspapers and other media organizations in Indiana and Florida, along with small businesses, community groups and non-profit organizations. Before joining IU School of Medicine in January 2020, she was editor-in-chief of a lifestyle magazine serving the community of Estero, Florida.