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Dr. Rose Ramos of NIEHS heard there was a shortage
of prom dresses in the post-Katrina Gulf Coast region. The thought
that there might be one young lady who was unable to attend her
prom because she couldn't find a dress inspired Ramos to offer
In March, Ramos read in the Washington Post about Prom
Dress Express, an effort organized by a high school student in
Beltsville, Md., to collect and distribute used prom and pageant
dresses to high school students along the Gulf who couldn't find
or couldn't afford a dress. The discovery led Ramos to Cabrini
High School, an all-girls Catholic school in New Orleans. One-third
of the students' families lost all their possessions during the
aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Ramos learned of two students who
were unable to find dresses that fit or conformed to the school's
strict dress code.
Working with a long list of measurements, a rough sketch for one
dress and a magazine cut-out for the other, she created two dresses
in less than 10 hours and shipped them off to the girls in New
Ramos is an experienced seamstress who ran her own custom prom
and wedding dress business for 10 years in San Antonio, Tex. She
has been carting around left-over material through several moves
during the last 5 years. The business allowed her to quit a full-time
job, create dresses at night, care for her then-teenage children
and return to school to complete a bachelor's degree at the University
of Texas, San Antonio. From there, she went to graduate school
at the University of Pittsburgh where she received her Ph.D. She
started a post-doctoral fellowship with Dr. Ken Olden in October
Ramos' area of expertise is health disparities. During her stay
at NIEHS, she will examine the risk of elevated pre-pregnancy body
mass index for insulin resistance and the prevalence of pro-inflammatory
mediators related to the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
in the expectant mothers and the newborns.
Ramos said, "It took longer for the girls to decide what kind
of dresses they wanted than it did for me to sew them."
The prom was May 12 and according to letters from the Cabrini
students, the dresses were a stunning success. Both girls expressed
their sincere gratitude and one invited Ramos to "come to 'The
Big Easy' when everything is settled down" to visit with her family.
Ramos said, "Preparing for prom is always a crazy time for girls
and their moms. I was thrilled to be able to offer relief from
some of the craziness and provide some normalcy after the disruption
experienced by these Katrina survivors over the last year."