Thursday, May 11, 2017
Jean Gasen, Ph.D., kicked off the final session of the 25th annual WISDM conference by thanking the women in the audience who had helped save her life.
“I am a breast cancer survivor,” said Gasen, who is director of leadership and executive coaching at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business. “I have been healthy for almost nine years and I can thank all of you for helping me be here.”
The daylong conference on May 5 honored female leaders in science, dentistry and medicine at VCU and provided opportunities for attendees to learn from one another. WISDM, which stands for Women in Science, Dentistry and Medicine, is a faculty organization that seeks to further the professional goals of women physicians, scientists and dentists at VCU.
“The first year when women could attend VCU School of Medicine was 1917 and now we have 121 female full professors. It only took us 100 years,” joked Carol Hampton, former associate dean for faculty and instructional development at VCU School of Medicine.
Hampton presented on the history of WISDM at the conference and spoke about achievements in the organization’s 25-year history. Highlights included VCU School of Medicine being named one of the best 100 companies to work for by Working Mothers magazine in 2004, the forming of the WISDM book club in 2005 and the opening of the WISDM mother’s lactation room at Cabell Library in 2016.
“In spite of the modest progress we have made, much more remains to be done,” Hampton said, challenging the audience to continue to work toward gender equality in their specific schools and departments.
The event honored two faculty members who have forged paths to leadership for themselves and now help others do the same. The annual WISDM Professional Achievement Awards — a highlight of the conference every year — were presented to Saba Masho, M.D., and Joan Pellegrini, Ph.D. The awards recognize women who have served as strong role models and mentors for the professional development of women faculty and who consistently demonstrate excellence in mentoring, scholarship, leadership and teaching.
Peter Buckley, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine, presented the award to Masho, who is a professor of epidemiology at the school’s departments of Family Medicine and Population Health, and Obstetrics and Gynecology.
“I had the opportunity to meet with Saba within my first 10 days of being at VCU and I was very impressed both with her career achievements and her humility,” Buckley said.
Masho, who has worked at VCU since 2001, serves as principal investigator on multiple federal grants that focus on perinatal health, childhood violence and the provision of comprehensive care to underserved families. She has authored more than 100 academic publications, approximately half as first author, and has mentored more than 20 Ph.D. students at VCU.
“Passion and commitment are words that come up repeatedly when students describe Dr. Masho,” Buckley said. “She is a great mentor.”
VCU School of Dentistry dean David Sarrett, D.M.D., presented the award to Pellegrini, an associate professor in the school’s Department of Oral Health Promotion and Community Outreach.
“When I heard Joan was a recipient I thought, ‘My gosh, she must have already received this award,’” Sarrett said, adding that Pellegrini is the dental hygienist of record for the patients he sees at the school’s faculty practice.
In addition to serving as a practicing clinician, Pellegrini directs dental hygiene theory courses, lectures and participates in clinical teaching with dental hygiene and dental students. As a clinical researcher she is involved in multidisciplinary health care research projects at the university, including topics such as preventive oral health strategies, evidence-based practice and multicultural diversity in health care.
The closing session led by Gasen provided attendees with an opportunity to brainstorm in focused conversations on three topics related to the advancement of WISDM in the immediate future and the next 25 years.
“The knowledge and wisdom is here and now we are trying to bring it all together to continue to collaborate, get diverse opinions and make exciting discoveries,” Gasen said. “I am feeling so inspired and in awe of the intellectual capital that is in this room today.”
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