The Calla Campaign

This Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, we want to introduce you to a few of the women behind the initiatives happening at GWHT.

As we prepare to premiere the (In)visible Organ Documentary in January, GWHT Staff member, Alexandria Da Ponte conducted virtual interviews with some of the women who were involved in the creation of the storytelling initiatives for GWHT. Below is her interview with Júlia Sroda Agudogo.

What is your background and involvement with GWHT?

I am a current Duke Med student, also an alum from GWHT. I began working with GWHT in 2015 and worked primarily with Mercy Asiedu on designing the Callascope. When I graduated from Duke in 2017 I decided to stay on at GWHT to do a gap year. During my gap year, I was focusing on clinical aspects related to the Callascope and also was involved in the organization of the Calla Campaign and Art Exhibit. I have now returned to GWHT for a research year as a part of my program at Duke Medical School.

I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to be part of GWHT! My fascinating multidisciplinary journey from working with inspiring engineers like Mercy, being a co-inventor of the Callascope, leading the Calla home-studies and the first year of the Calla Campaign is a testament to the innovative and nourishing hub that GWHT is. I’m thrilled to return full-time for my research year of Duke Med School!

How were you involved with the beginning of the Calla Campaign ?

The initial idea started with Wesley & Nimmi, they started to brainstorm how to build a documentary film that was centered around the technology that was developed at GWHT. When I decided to stay on for a gap year before medical school, they thought this would be a good project for me to take on. It was something I had never thought of before! I didn’t really have a lot of experience with the arts. But we had a really incredible core group: Nimmi, Dr. Hogan, Dr. Jenson, Dr. Huchko, Mercy, Libby, Marlee and a couple other people. Everyone came from a different background and there was a lot of opportunities to support each other.

How was the content for the art exhibit developed?

We wanted to create something that was tangible expression for the documentary. We had a lot of openness around what this could look like. One of our initial angles was discussing how the Callascope could help women to visualize their Cervix at home. We discussed how this could intertwine with data for data to create an exhibit. It seemed like it was fertile soil to get women to provide feedback from the comfort of their own homes, own bathrooms or wherever they choose to think about their reproductive health means to them.

The experience of using the Callascope was often times the first time that these women had seen their reproductive health. This could change their views or educating themselves in a way they never had before.

This study was so unique because we were taking the data and then giving it to artists to recreate a vision. We had about 12 women participate and each of them was able to take home the Callascope kit for about a week. It was a lot of commitment and really showed how much these women valued the project and opportunity to understand their anatomy in a different way.

We received permission from all the women to utilize the data and images to create the art exhibit.

We spent a lot of time bouncing ideas of each other and eventually decided to focus on working with local artists. We worked to create a “Call for Artists” who would be able to use the data to create art for the exhibit.

Recently the (In) Visible Organ team interviewed one of the artists and contributors to the exhibit, Taji Jones. Head to the (In) Visible Organ website to learn more from the artist!

What was your most memorable moment from this process of being involved with the Calla Campaign?

It was great to see so many men at the actual exhibit. The Center is very woman focused and we say “tools for women by women”, but it was great to see that so many men were supportive of the research and project.

I enjoyed seeing male leaders from my engineering school come and learn more about the anatomy of women’s bodies. I loved that the audience was not just contained to one core group of people but that the audience ranged from all sorts of people across and beyond the university.

What was the biggest lesson you learned through your year working on the Calla Campaign?

I really enjoyed working with women from different backgrounds and seeing a multi-disciplinary approach in action. We all took what I first thought of as a quirky idea of combining art and biomedical engineering and turned it into a successful exhibit.

I saw how efficient it can be to bring together women from very different disciplines. I think especially in the research field you can get really focused on one line of thinking, I was initially confused as to how we were going to make a bridge between all of these disciplines. But I was able to see how coming together and putting in the time could bring about fruitful change.

Another way that I was impacted by the Calla Campaign was by seeing the power of women uniting.

The volunteers who came forward to be a part of the Callascope study were willing to put in the work of being vulnerable to let us do something as intimate as visualizing their internal anatomy, to taking the kit home, and to try a completely new device as well as provide all their thoughts about seeing their reproductive parts — all things women don’t really talk about.

But they were willing to stick with it and work together to make a difference and impact on women’s health.

Ordinary women were able and willing to support each other.

CALLA STORIES: Behind the (In)visible Organ Exhibit

Innovate with passion, deliver with compassion. www.DukeGWHT.org