2nd Annual Women in Medicine Symposium
2nd Annual Women in Medicine Symposium

The Heider College of Business welcomed women healthcare professionals from across the region to its second annual Women in Medicine symposium on Oct. 12. Established in fall 2016, the conference helps female physicians and healthcare professionals to be engaged leaders and expands their business acumen while providing an opportunity for networking with peers.

Laurie Baedke, FACHE, FACMPE, director of healthcare leadership programs at the Heider College of Business, has made a career in the healthcare industry, both as a healthcare executive and now as speaker, author and educator. She has witnessed firsthand the unique challenges women face in medicine. Despite equal or slightly higher enrollment in medical schools, women fall behind in their careers compared to men, earn less and are underrepresented in healthcare leadership positions.

“We have an opportunity to engage and equip females to lead and advance,” says Baedke, who has organized the symposium for the past two years.

Last year’s symposium focused on physician attendance. This year, it expanded to include other advanced clinicians and non-clinician leaders. Feedback from 2016 symposium attendees also led to an added “Wine and Learning” series, which featured speakers on various business and leadership topics such as strengths-based leadership, entrepreneurship and leadership and gender bias.

Women face challenges in the greater work force; medicine, in general, is challenging. Combine the two, and you have an idea why the Women in Medicine symposium is so important, and so positively received. It provides valuable learning and fosters a sense of community for women in health care and opportunity to meet other like-minded leaders, says Baedke.

“The value of the symposium is in the networking and hearing from experienced female physicians giving their view – on how they have grown, on their struggles and that ‘hard is normal.’ It makes me feel as if I’m not alone, and I can strive for excellence,” says Renuga Vivekanandan, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Creighton University School of Medicine. “These kinds of events are important to empower women and support each other.”

Suzanne Haney, MD, FAAP, a child abuse pediatrician at Omaha Children’s Hospital and Medical Center and assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Nebraska Medical Center, concurs. “To be able to meet other women physicians and share the difficulties and joys of what we do is very important,” says Dr. Haney, who also served as a panelist at the 2017 symposium. “It was important to me to see that I am not alone in doing my job and in struggling to balance my work and my life.”

When Baedke lines up speakers and presenters, she does so with diversity – experience, age and expertise – in mind. A compelling and practically applicable message is also necessary.

“I seek out highly-regarded local content experts to speak on leadership, finance, well-being, design thinking and negotiation,” says Baedke. “This allows for attendees to round out their skill sets, not just as clinicians, but as leaders, preparing them to thrive both personally and professionally.”

Presenters this year included Joan Schaefer, MD, executive vice president of health delivery engagement at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska; Jane Miller, chief operating officer at Gallup; and Katie Kemerling, chief marketing officer at Ervin & Smith. They spoke on such diverse topics as creative problem solving, the effects of meditation on the brain and women in the workplace. A panel discussion, “Advancement and Equity for Women in Medicine,” rounded out symposium sessions.

Baedke also seeks nationally-recognized experts to serve as keynote speakers. This year, Sara W. Lazar, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and associate researcher in Massachusetts General Hospital’s Psychiatry Department, discussed well-being, specifically, the benefits of meditation.  Lazar’s research explores the impact of mindfulness and meditation on various cognitive and behavioral functions. Her results suggest that meditation can produce experience-based structural alterations in the brain, can reduce anxiety and may slow down the age related atrophy of certain areas of the brain.

Heider College of Business has expanded its programming in response to the increasing connection between medicine and business, through programming like this and also in the launch of another program intended to equip physician and healthcare leaders, the Executive MBA in Healthcare Management. Baedke’s academic appointment within Heider College is a testimony to this commitment. If response to the first two Women in Medicine symposiums is indicative of future success, Baedke has organized a winning conference.

“Women in medicine need to support each other and help each other grow and excel,” Dr. Vivekanandan says.