Cool Girls with Tag: cool girl

Kara Connelly

Name: Kara Connelly
Age: 40
Location: Portland, OR
Occupation: Physician—Pediatric Endocrinologist

As a child, Kara Connelly knew that she wanted to be a doctor who worked with children. Growing up in Wisconsin, Utah, Wyoming, and Nicaragua, where her father worked for UNICEF, she quickly learned that every environment is different and every patient has their own unique challenges.

 “I always knew I wanted to be a pediatrician. When I was in elementary school I became obsessed with a book called Where There Is No Doctor, a very well-known healthcare manual originally written in the 1970s that was focused on ways to meet the basic healthcare needs of people of all ages living in under-resourced communities. I was most fascinated by the pediatric chapters and realized I wanted to work with children and their caregivers,” Kara recalls.

As an undergraduate student at Tulane University, Kara worked in a research lab where she studied the effects of hormones on learning and memory. She found herself riveted by the way hormones worked within all the systems of the body.

“I had never thought about combining my love of pediatric medicine with my interest in hormones and the endocrine system until I was doing my three-year pediatric residency and completed my four-week pediatric endocrinology rotation. I knew instantly that this was the right career path for me,” Kara said.

The field of pediatric endocrinology focuses on hormone systems within the growing body, meaning that, on any given day, Kara could encounter young patients with diabetes, growth conditions, thyroid problems, adrenal disorders, or rare hormone deficiencies. Currently staff at OHSU in Portland, she works both as a physician as well as the medical director of the Doernbecher Gender Clinic.

“One of the things I enjoy most about my job is the fact that every day is a little different,” Kara explains. “My job includes a combination of face to face clinical work with patients and their families, teaching medical students and residents, teaching pediatricians and other healthcare providers in the community about pediatric endocrinology, research, and advocacy.”

As the medical director of the Doernbecher Gender Clinic, Kara is working with the OHSU Transgender Health Program, which provides a variety of services including comprehensive patient and family centered care to transgender and gender diverse youth.

When she’s not in a facility engaging in face-to-face clinical time with her patients, she is tackling administrative and academic endeavors teaching as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics.

“As doctors, we are perpetual students. We are constantly learning new information and applying it to improve the care that we can provide to patients,” she explains. “I also see myself as a constant educator in my role as a physician and teacher – whether I am giving a lecture to a large group of physicians or students, working one on one with learners, or educating a patient and family about a hormone condition. Sharing these roles of student and educator is one of my favorite parts about being a physician.”

Kara also travels to other cities to provide care at “outreach clinics” for patients who live outside of the Portland metro area and may have additional barriers to receiving pediatric endocrinology care. It’s a very full career, but Kara still finds the time to advance her studies through education, research, and advocacy…as well as being the mother of two young children. “Seeking the right amount of work-life balance will always be a work in progress,” she explains.

Beyond growing their pediatric gender clinic within the Transgender Health Program, and continuing to contribute research and information exchanges at conferences, Kara would also like to investigate further treatment outlets for her patients, extending the care of transgender youth to include the greater communities that these young people are involved in. “I want to look at care holistically, for any patient, but especially our gender diverse youth and to start thinking about how we can use our influence to impact schools, faith communities, and parent support. We are already doing this in our dedicated gender clinic, but would love to expand this statewide,” she says.

For her compassionate and expansive approach to medicine and research, as well as her incredible ability to balance all of the demands as a working – and teaching – wife and mother, we think Kara Connelly is a very Cool Girl!

For more information on organizations Kara Connelly supports, check out:

Rachel Ignotofsky

Name: Rachel Ignotofsky
Age: 30
Location: Los Angeles
Occupation: Author and Illustrator

Growing up, Rachel Ignotofsky enjoyed cartoons, comics, and TV shows about science, but she didn’t really enjoy reading. As she overcame her difficulty, she realized that illustrations and other visual aids really helped her to click with the subject material.

“When I was in elementary school I just turned every project into an art project. I built a ton of dioramas,” she remembers.

After graduating from Tyler School of Art’s graphic design program with honors, and working as an illustrator at Hallmark Greetings, she began her career translating her love of history and science into illustration.

“I wanted to create art about things I found interesting and found it really important to teach it to others. I began using my background in graphic design to create infographics and posters that teachers could use in their classrooms,” Rachel says. “I still use posters to test out ideas and figure out concepts before I begin writing a book.”

Today this New York Times-bestselling author has released a whole slew of wisdom-packed books that use infographics, gorgeous doodles, and eye-catching art that appeals to readers of all ages.

“Something magical happens when you take the time to make information look pretty. People stop because it looks cool and before you know it, they are tricked into learning. We need to encourage people to feel excited to learn about hard to talk about science topics like climate change, so we can begin to solve those problems,” Rachel continued.

Her series of books highlighting trailblazers in herstory includes Women in Science, Women in Art, and Women in Sports, all of which use her creative spark to draw attention to ladies who have done incredible things in a variety of fields, in spite of gender inequity. She also uses infographics to convey information that may seem overwhelming or inaccessible to certain people or students.

“I use my art to break down the fear of learning complicated subjects. Illustration is the most powerful tool when it comes to education,” she says.

Originally, Rachel began to notice that certain topics didn’t seem to have an adequate representation of prominent women. Her curiosity as to why led her to begin researching and discovering that, in fact, many women had done incredible things in all fields, including those of science, mathematics, and engineering–topics that a lot of people find burdensome to grasp.

“I write my books about topics that I think are important,” she explains. “Only by understanding how our world works (science), and why our world works the way it does (history), can people make informed decisions in my opinion. I also make my work with teachers in mind. I think about what can help them in their classrooms and I make my work as tools for teachers to use during lessons.”

When she’s not writing books, Rachel also speaks at a variety of venues, including museums, and even NASA. And when she goes out on a book tour, she’s able to see how her hours of night-owl productivity and research have paid off.

“The best part is hearing how the book is being used in lesson plans and in real life. Kids share their drawings with me also, which is always so awesome,” she adds.

Currently, Rachel is working on two new science books that are slated for release in 2021, while also touring to promote her latest book, The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth.

And now, we’re welcoming Rachel and her art to our family of Artist Collaborations. We’ve recently launched four new styles that pay tribute to four amazing women that are highlighted in Rachel’s books. These socks feature Ada Lovelace, Elizabeth Blackwell, Rosalind Franklin, and Joan Procter.

“We need to make sure that everyone grows up knowing that they can be leaders in solving our worlds biggest problems. I hope my books about Women in Science, Sports, and Art help young girls discover new role models that inspire them to follow their passions!”

Some wise words from this graphic genius! For her art and her assistance in making various topics accessible, we think Rachel Ignotofsky is a very Cool Girl! And because we believe in Rachel’s mission so much, for every pair in her collection sold, a small donation will be made to Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that is on a mission to close the gender gap in technology and to change the image of what a programmer looks like and does.

Love the book? Get the matching socks! Women in Science socks are available now.

Amber Varner

Name: Amber Henneck Varner
Age: 45
Location: Newberg, OR
OccupationExecutive Director of Forward Stride

In bucolic Missoula, Montana, Amber Varner grew up doting on her aunt’s horses until she was gifted one of her own at age eleven. Ginger, that first horse, became her constant companion and began a stretch of horse ownership that’s gone nearly uninterrupted since then. It’s fair to say that her experience with Ginger launched her down the path to being the person she is today, in charge of Forward Stride, an organization that uses equine therapy to benefit humans and horses alike.

Amber Varner uses equine therapy to help humans and horses“I wanted to be a veterinarian until I realized they had to put animals to sleep,” Amber recalls. “I wanted to be a marine biologist until I realized I would have a hard time being at sea and owning horses. I wanted to be a pediatrician until I realized they didn’t actually have a chance to get to know the children they treated. I finally decided I wanted to be involved with therapeutic horsemanship during my final year of college. I couldn’t wait to combine my passion for horses with my passion for helping people with disabilities and I have not looked back.”

Amber Varner wows the crowd as she talks about equine therapyForward Stride began when Amber and a group of likeminded people resurrected a similar organization at its nadir. They renamed and reimagined the nonprofit, first as a volunteer group that provided riding lessons to disadvantaged children twice a week. “This passionate group set the stage for us to grow into what we are today: thirty staff members, thirty-five equines, 150 volunteers providing over 200 client service hours per week.”

Today, Forward Stride carries out its mission through seven programs that are divided into three categories: Equestrian Sports, Clinical Services, and Personal Development. By offering volunteering opportunities, equine-centered learning, equine-facilitated psychotherapy services, vocational opportunities, rehabilitation, vaulting and riding, Forward Stride approaches mind, body, and soul wellness through an interconnected series of relationships and activities.

Over time, Forward Stride has encountered many challenges, including the predictably high overhead that the majestic animals bring, moving multiple times, turnover at executive director, and general economic uncertainty.

Amber remains optimistic. “Throughout it all, we have always managed to keep seeing our clients and ensure a happy and healthy herd. Because we are an inclusive center, we encourage everyone to experience our services and also to give back. This makes for a very tight-knit, passionate community.”

Amber Varner rides a horseThere’s always something to do at Forward Stride, and when Amber isn’t working with people in the arena, you can find her training horses, attending to various projects at her desk, executing necessary administrative tasks, or meeting with coworkers and board members to keep them up to speed. In her spare time, she and her daughters enjoy riding and vaulting and spending time together at the barn.

In the future, Amber sees an expansion coming.

“I aim to ensure Forward Stride’s long-term success by growing our donor base and programming, and improving our services through staff education and innovation,” she says.

“I hope to provide my daughters with the same support I was given by my parents to follow my dreams and turn them into a stable living. Sometimes I dream of being eighty and still teaching people how to communicate and enjoy their equine partners. How many people don’t ever want to retire? I am one lucky lady.”

Amber Varner of Forward Stride works with a horseWhat advice does this equestrian expert have for young ladies as they saddle up to adulthood?

“Make your own community. Surround yourself with others who understand that we all have gifts and we all have challenges. When you are surrounded by people who all have a common goal of lifting one another up, anything is possible and you will always have a shoulder or two to lean on when you are not able to stand alone. In return, be the same support to others whenever you can. You will find more strength than you ever thought you had when you put it to use for others.”

Some excellent advice! For her work with Forward Stride and keeping horses and humans happy, healthy, and in harmony, we think Amber Varner is a very Cool Girl!

To learn more about Forward Stride, like them on Facebook or follow them on Instagram!

Wendy Smith

Name: Wendy Smith
Age: 42
Location: Washougal, WA
Occupation: Co-Founder and Director of Odd Man Inn Animal Refuge; Writer; Registered Nurse

Like many kids who love animals, Wendy Smith dreamed of one day becoming a veterinarian. But after going to school on a military scholarship, she began her career as a nurse. After thirteen years as a high-risk labor and delivery nurse, and five years as an E.R. nurse at a trauma center, Wendy decided to take on a different type of triage. She’s now the director, vice president, medical director, volunteer and adoption coordinator, head of marketing and social media, lead copywriter, funding chairperson, and so much more at the animal refuge she co-founded, Odd Man Inn.

Considering her earlier life’s dream to become a veterinarian, she didn’t end up too far off, between working both in animal rescue and human medicine. “It turns out I would have made a terrible veterinarian because my beliefs about all beings having an equal right to their lives would have been a serious job hazard,” she says.

Through her position at Odd Man Inn, Wendy is a voice for the voiceless and a champion of all creatures great and small. “After we adopted Roswell, a dog with a bite history, we bought a piece of property to help keep him safe,” Wendy remembers. “Because we had space to take in more animals in need, and because we were investing our lives into this one dog, we chose to take in species who are often abused, neglected, and discarded.”

It was Roswell’s rescue that prompted them to develop Odd Man Inn into a full-scale animal rescue nonprofit based in the small community of Washougal, Washington.

“We are a farm animal sanctuary and adoption shelter and we rehabilitate animals who need help recovering from past lives, then we find them safe homes. It feeds my soul to nurture them and watch them return to health and happiness. We’ve now adopted out 275 animals in just three years.”

Every day Wendy and her team wake up to a goat named Herbie Berbie screaming for breakfast at 5AM, then proceed to feed 35 pigs individualized meals. After a full day of collecting produce donations, answering emails, messages, and social media comments, managing a volunteer crew, and tending to their residents, they serve 35 pig dinners and start prepping for the following day.

But it’s not the everyday tasks like these that make operating an animal shelter such a challenge; it’s trying to take in as many rescue animals as possible.

“The need for animal rescue is far greater than the number of people who are willing to take animals in and care for them,” Wendy says. “We receive dozens of messages a week asking for help with animals, and we simply cannot say yes to all of them. Our mission involves helping the animals have their voices heard while they have the luxury of our online platforms and devoted fans who are listening. We share very openly about our life here with them, which comes at the sacrifice of our own privacy. I don’t mind that so much, but I do dream of a world where we don’t have to go through such extreme measures to help animals become ambassadors for saving their own kind.”

Wendy has written several children’s books about the rescue stories of animals, and aims to publish them with all of the proceeds going to benefit the residents of Odd Man Inn. She was also a speaker at this year’s Portland VegFest, and is getting ready for SaSQUASH Art Fest, the third annual fundraiser for Odd Man Inn.

What advice does this animal advocate have for young girls out there looking to lend a hand and a heart?

“I always thought that my “job” had to be something that was also my passion. That’s not always the case. Find something you’re good at, and get paid to do that work, then use your free time to pursue things you’re passionate about, whether they pay you or not. Make your superpower your work ethic and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.”

Keep track of the great work they’re doing at Odd Man Inn by following on Instagram and liking on Facebook.

Anusha Singh

Name: Anusha Singh
Age: 20 years old
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Occupation: College Student on a pre-med track/ National Campaign Co-Director for PERIOD

As an activist and educator, pre-med student Anusha Singh believes that access to healthcare is a human right. “My passion lies in helping underserved populations and people who can’t speak up for themselves,” she says. “This is exactly why I began my work in advocacy. Advocacy has given me purpose and a mission that is greater than myself, which overlaps deeply with my passion for medicine.”

Along with several other activists, Anusha testified against the “Pink Tax” in Ohio, a special tax on feminine hygiene products. Soon after, a bill to eliminate the tax was successfully passed in the Ohio House of Representatives.

“Before testifying, I remember walking into the restroom and staring at myself in the mirror feeling a bottomless pit of self-doubt in my stomach. Questions like, ‘I am just a student. How are they ever going to take me seriously?’ and ‘How do I get a room of predominantly male politicians to care about this issue?’ spun in my head. That was the very moment where I began to look outwards and realized that my very being there is setting an example to other students who were sitting behind and watching me. After giving myself a brief pep talk into the mirror, I realized that all that mattered to me was showing the students seated behind me in the House Ways and Means Committee that their voices do matter and the power of their advocacy,” she says.

As the National Campaign Co-Director for PERIOD, the largest youth-run women’s nonprofit in the world, she strives to provide menstrual products and support to all, especially those who are underserved. Anusha initially created the PERIOD chapter at Ohio State University after researching the tampon tax. She found it to be a bit of a struggle with her school’s administration at first.

“We received all types of pushback, whether it be from our school’s administration telling us that they do not have the funds available to budget for menstrual products, although they have the funds for toilet paper, or nasty comments left under our school newspaper (which featured us) claiming that we are not standing up for ‘real’ issues,” she remembers. “The more we worked with larger institutions demanding policy change, the more we realized that the majority of pushback was rooted in the lack of awareness resulting from the stigma surrounding this issue.”

From that realization, Anusha and her counterparts decided that it was necessary to educate people that menstrual products are not merely “personal items,” but crucial necessities that are vital to female students, and everyone who menstruates. Without them, education–even going to class–is impossible.

“We worked with Ohio State University to stock free menstrual products in over 150 academic buildings with a pilot program, which recently started as well!” she says. “My experiences working on the local level has enabled me to work as the Policy Coordinator at the National Level for PERIOD Non-profit and help so many other students across the country challenge their school’s administrations and partner with their state representatives for systemic policy change. Our success has drawn upon incredible support systems and believers in the movement.”

Anusha and PERIOD have chosen to push for October 19th to be declared National Period Day. It has two main rallying points of action. One: to provide provisions for free menstrual hygiene products in all schools, shelters and prisons across the country. Two: to eliminate tampon taxes in the remaining 35 states that still have them.

“October 19th is the day we hope to bring global attention to the issue of period poverty and make menstruation a much more global and mainstream issue. To get involved with the rally closest to you, be sure to check out Our goal is to hold rallies in all 50 states across the country in hopes of elevating the issue of period poverty,” Anusha says.

And what advice does this menstrual mercenary and brilliant mind have for young women who feel passionate about issues beyond their social circle?

“You are going to meet people who will make you feel inadequate and inexperienced, but I can assure you that your voice matters. Never underestimate the power of your voice.”