Host: Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatry
Dr. Linda Austin: Hello. I’m Dr. Linda Austin. In this podcast, I want to tell you about a new workshop series called Women Leading Wellness. It’s a series designed by the women doctors and clinicians at MUSC, in partnership with the Charleston Center for Women. I’d like to share with you the philosophy and the background of the series to help you understand our rather ambitious agenda.
In your mind’s eye, sit in front of your computer monitor and just imagine a Google Earth view of the United States. I’m sure you know that we face a major healthcare crisis. As many wonderful technological and medication advances that we now have to keep people alive once they become very sick, we simply don’t know quite how to pay for all that. Most important, we certainly have not done an equally good job figuring out how to keep people healthy for a long and productive life. Our current epidemic of overweight Americans is due to lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol, drug abuse, and interpersonal violence. These, all, are behavioral choices that have a disastrous impact on the collective health of the country.
We women have a particularly important role to play in addressing those issues. And we have not yet realized our full potential in improving the health of our nation. Studies show that roughly three quarters of all health decisions are made by women. We are, after all, the ones who go through pregnancy, labor and delivery. We generally take our kids to the pediatrician, and our parents to the doctor. And, often, we influence our husband’s healthcare decisions, while addressing our own. Furthermore, we have enormous influence on the diet of our families, the amount of exercise our children get. And we can have great impact on patterns of drug use, alcohol use, and smoking within our families. Surely, if we women, as a group, became impassioned, together, about improving the health of our families, we could have enormous impact on our national health.
Now, in your mind’s eye, zoom in on Google Earth and travel with me back in time to October 31st, 2008, to a workshop I gave at MUSC for Women Scholars Initiative. Many women there spoke with great emotion about why, disproportionately, few women advance to leadership positions within our own and other universities. One of the root causes we discussed was that during our 30s and 40s, when our male colleagues are working very long hours on research and publications that secure promotion, we women are often raising our families. This begged the question, however, is there anything special about our identity, as women, that might offset that difference, that might warrant offering us a place at the university conference tables where decisions are made about the future of healthcare and health education?
It took only a moment to see the obvious, that we women doctors and clinicians come from a unique perspective. Not only do we have the medical and clinical background of our male colleagues, but we also have special insight into the experience of our patients. We know what it feels like to have a pelvic exam, to deliver a baby, be up all night with a colicky infant, or to take a child with learning problems to the pediatrician. Like our friends and neighbors, we too have struggled with kids who won’t eat their vegetables or, maybe, teenagers who drink way too much, way too young. Many of us also know what it’s like to care of an elderly parent with Alzheimer’s, or to nurse a loved one through cancer.
We salute our male colleagues who have also been deeply immersed in these experiences, but believe that our own life experiences, as mothers, daughters, wives, and sisters, bring an invaluable perspective to our work at the university and in the community. At every level of the healthcare debate, whether it’s in the home, at universities, hospitals, or government hearings, our voices, as women, must be heard. And we, also, must take a more active role in creating an American culture of health. We decided that the most effective way we could express the importance of women as leaders of wellness was through dialogue and in partnership with organizations and individuals in our community.
So, zoom out now and look at the Charleston, South Carolina tri-county area. We met with Janet Ultraman of the Charleston Center for Women and decided to offer a five-part workshop series to bring community and university women together to focus on our roles in five key areas of health behavior, our role as daughters caring for aging parents, as mothers talking about drugs, sex and alcohol with our kids, as nutritional leaders in our families, as lovers in our sexual relationships through our life cycle, and as cancer caretakers and survivors. We have been lucky to affiliate with an existing program offered by MUSC Cardiologist, Dr. Pam Morris. It’s the Women’s Heart Health Symposium, which is a day-long program in April.
I welcome you to our workshops that will be held, at 6:00 pm, on the second Wednesday of the month in October, November, January, February, and March. These workshops will be oriented to women working as leaders in their own families, but also with an eye to the role that we play in our communities.
We are so grateful to Wachovia Bank for offering financial sponsorship, to Whole Foods for supplying refreshments, and to Skirt magazine for publicity. This support allows us to offer the workshops and free parking. But we do ask you to register online, or call Becky: 843.792.5817.
Thank you so much for listening, and I really hope to see you soon.