RIT/NTID Lab Director Displays Life-Size Statue for National If/Then She Can Exposition


Those who have met Dr. Tiffany Panko know that she carries a larger than life presence when it comes to promoting women in STEM education and careers. And to reflect Panko’s commitment to STEM, the Smithsonian will feature her and 119 other women STEM leaders in a new national exhibit.

Panko, director of the Deaf Health Laboratory at the Center for Culture and Language at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology, will be among 120 women in STEM personified in life-size statues to be displayed in the Smithsonian Gardens and in select Smithsonian museums from March 5-27 for #IfThenSheCan — The Exhibit.

The exhibit, which depicts committed women leaders in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is the largest collection of statues of women ever assembled, according to the Smithsonian. The exhibition kicks off the Smithsonian’s Women’s Future Montha forward-looking celebration of the power of women and girls in STEM to shape a better world.

“I applied and was selected for this incredible honor as an ambassador, along with other incredible women in STEM who share a passion for promoting interest in STEM for college girls,” said Panko said. “Hence the motto, #IfThenSheCan, as if she could see it, she could be. My passion for encouraging young women to pursue STEM education and careers runs deep, and this honor is another way to share my message.

Following this honor, Panko attended an Ambassadors Summit, where she received awareness training, developed a personal press kit and contributed materials to the IF/THEN® Collection. This library of digital assets is for non-profit and educational use and has led to Panko being featured in three museum exhibitions across the country. In addition, she had access to a mini-grant, which allowed her to co-create a female health record featuring the work of a deaf illustrator.

Panko, an RIT alumnus who received support from NTID, earned her undergraduate degree in applied arts and science, with concentrations in premedical and psychological studies, in 2008. She received her MBA from Saunders College of Commerce in 2009 and his medical degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in 2016.

In her role at NTID, Panko oversees the Deaf Health Laboratory’s mission to promote health justice by conducting research and initiatives in the Deaf community in the areas of preventive health, family planning, health literacy and of the Deaf’s experience in health care. Panko’s research interests include reproductive justice, health literacy, access to health care, and women’s health issues.

Panko is also involved in the Rochester Bridges to Ph.D. program as Director of Research Networking, as a further testament to her dedication to mentoring and supporting Deaf and underrepresented students in STEM.

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