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Harvard, MIT students develop female manikins to make CPR training more inclusive to women

Students revamp CPR training to make it more inclusive to women
Students revamp CPR training to make it more inclusive to women 02:23

CAMBRIDGE - There's a group of students at MIT and Harvard banding together to save lives by improving CPR training.

"There is very little female representation in the curriculum and so we thought we should fix that," MIT student Charles Sloane, a member of LifeSaveHer, told WBZ-TV. LifeSaveHer is a company developed by MIT and Harvard undergraduate students, who are also EMTs and CPR instructors, to create female manikin covers that address gender disparities in CPR training.

Research from the National Institute of Health shows that women are less likely than men to receive bystander CPR. 

"It's disappointing but not surprising given so many medical inventions have [only] been tested on men. Anyone who knows a woman, whether it's their mother or sister, knowing that statistic is kind of heart breaking," said LifeSaveHer member Lydia Shimelis.

The students' idea for the manikin started after a shocking class they instructed one day.

"We received questions during this class that were quite alarming. They were ones like, 'Do women still need CPR?'. So we thought there must be something wrong with the training," Sloane said.

So the group got to work designing and handmaking versions of a universal silicone CPR manikin from molds of a real woman's body. The manikin is also AED compatible.

LifeSaveHer members Charles Sloane and Lydia Shimelis with their new female maikin. CBS Boston

"At one point, one of our team members had cups, red solo cups and was just filing it with different layers of silicone, and we're like, okay, what feels the realest?" Shimelis told WBZ. Making and improving versions of the manikin has been a fun process for them. "In the end, the more real it can be, the more effective it can be," she said.

They've gotten more than 37,000 signatures on a petition to add their mannequins to American Heart Association CPR trainings. Their research has even been published showing the manikins work. 

"Our female manikin creates a better learning environment for students to better feel comfortable after our class, giving CPR to a woman outside," Sloane said.

For Charles, the mission behind the work is personal. His mother has end stage cardiac disease. 

"I think that's what's drawing me so much to this project is the thought that a woman like my mother, or anyone else's,  wouldn't have the ability to receive CPR if they were in the field, is appalling," he said.

The manikins are being used by LifeSaveHer's training center partners across the country. 

"Seeing it being used in classes across the country now is very rewarding, Sloane said.

"Even if this ends up saving one person's life, this project that I've enjoyed working on with all these people has actually made an impact," Shimelis said.

Their goal is to crowdfund enough money to affordably mass manufacture the manikins. 

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