Jain is chair and founder of the Women in Medicine Summit, president of the nonprofit Women in Medicine, and the host of Healio’s Oncology Overdrive podcast.
For the first time in 3 years, the Women in Medicine Summit will be taking place in person, from Sept. 16 to 17, in Chicago.
The 2-day summit offers education, toolkits, skill-building, networking and other opportunities to amplify women in medicine and work toward gender equity in health care. More than 400 health care professionals are expected to attend.
Healio spoke with Shikha Jain, MD, FACP, chair and founder of the Women in Medicine Summit, president of the nonprofit Women in Medicine, and the host of Healio’s Oncology Overdrive podcast, about her goals for this year’s summit and all it has to offer.
Healio: What are your most important aspirations for this year’s Women in Medicine Summit?
Jain: We are incredibly excited to be back in person this year for the first time since 2019, and really just happy that we’re going to be able to see each other. I’m really looking forward to meeting many amazing people who I have been communicating with and collaborating and engaging with on social media for the last 4 years, many of whom I have never actually met in real life. It feels like a reunion of old and new friends and people who I feel like I know really well even though we have never met in person. We’re doing everything possible to make sure that it’s as safe as possible with the ongoing pandemic. We’re requiring people to be fully vaccinated, to have a negative test and to wear masks during the conference. So, we’re doing everything we can to make sure it’s a safe gathering of amazing individuals from around the country.
Healio: How has the summit evolved over the years?
Jain: The first year that we did this, it really was created because we just thought that there wasn’t enough of this type of programming, education and empowerment for women in medicine and allies. We have now evolved into what almost feels like a movement where we are incorporating allyship and toolkits and skill building. It has really evolved into not only a conference but also a way to build communities nationally and internationally of women and men and nonbinary individuals — really anybody who feels that there are inequities in our health care systems. I have learned over the years that the ripple effect and impact of this summit is seen and felt in a much grander scale than I think any of us realized. By speaking to former attendees and then speaking to individuals who have partaken in our longitudinal leadership programming and our other programming, we have found that we have been able to impact not only individuals but also systems across the country. Our goal is to empower individuals to work towards changing health care systems, with the long-term goal of having a positive impact on our health care infrastructure nationally.
Healio: Child care will be available for summit attendees. Can you discuss the importance of providing this? Do you think child care could — and should — be made available at other medical conferences?
Jain: Oftentimes people can’t make it to a conference because they can’t find child care or they want to come to a conference but they don’t know what they’ll do with their kids during the conference. I think it’s really important to provide child care at these types of events in order to allow people with those types of barriers to attend. We published a paper a few years ago that showed that was one of the barriers to many mothers, especially, from attending these types of conferences. We also are going to have a lactation room available for anybody who is pumping or nursing. We end the conference on Saturday late afternoon/early evening specifically so that if people do come with their families, you can turn it into a family weekend, and you’ll have Saturday evening and Sunday to have family time if that’s what you’d like to do.
I think child care is something that should be available at all conferences, whether it’s predominately men or women attending. As a kid, my dad’s medical conferences were some of the most fun vacations that I had. I loved going to those conferences. That’s one of the ways in which I learned how to love medicine because I learned all these things as a young child. I think that providing child care is very important to allow parents to attend, and I think it’s also an important way to garner excitement in the next generation of potential physicians.
Healio: What are you looking forward to most at this year’s summit?
Jain: Our speakers this year are fantastic. Our keynote speakers — I just can’t even tell you how excited I am for them — include Kimberly D. Manning, MD, who is a dear friend despite the fact that we never met in person, and she always gives a phenomenal talk; Kavita Patel, MD, MS, who worked with the Obama administration as the former director of policy for the White House and has really interesting insights on advocacy and working in a space that I think many women are interested in getting more involved in — the advocacy space and government; and Rebekah Gee, MD, a very well-respected OB/GYN. And I cannot believe we are fortunate enough to have Aletha Maybank, MD, MPH, the senior vice president and chief health equity officer of the AMA, and Cindy Duke, MD, PhD, FACOG, America’s only dual fertility expert and virologist.
With what’s happening with reproductive health in our country, I think having Drs. Gee and Duke speak to all of us about this very important time in our history is going to be very powerful. Drs. Gee and Patel will be speaking on the topic of majority rules and the fact that women are the majority, so really, we should be making the rules.
I’m also super excited this year because for the first time, we’re doing a joint event on Friday night with a narrative storytelling evening with The Nocturnists, which I think is just going to be phenomenal. Their events are always amazing. We’re also partnering with Intelligentsia Coffee this year, and we’re going to have a “med-grind” event at our cocktail hour on Friday evening, where people can bring bags of coffee to exchange, because a lot of physicians and health care workers live on coffee! Saturday, after the conference ends, we will have a sign-up where the first 30 people who register will also get a tour of the Intelligentsia Coffee brewing and roasting factory. I have gone, and it’s very cool. We are also going to have an opportunity for attendees to meet some physician authors, such as Shirlene Obuobi, MD, for a book signing. She was recently interviewed on Good Morning America after her debut book On Rotation has taken the nation by storm! So, we have some really unique aspects of this year’s summit. Really, at the end of the day, we’re just going to have a lot of fun meeting up with people who we haven’t seen in a long time.
Healio: Anything else to add?
Jain: I want to emphasize that this conference is not just for women. We do have allyship programming, and we have an entire longitudinal leadership program; this year’s cohort is launching at the summit. So, if you’re a male leader, join us at the summit this year, and if you want to do more intensive leadership training, consider registering for the inclusive leadership lab as well. At the end of the day, our health care systems will not change unless everyone is working towards the same goals, and we should also strive to work towards achieving these global changes and disrupting our systems for the better. I would strongly encourage — whatever your gender — that you consider attending this year’s Women in Medicine Summit because, these problems don’t just impact the women, they impact everyone.
For more information about the summit or to register, go to www.womeninmedicinesummit.org.
Woitowich NC, et al. J Womens Health. 2020;doi:10.1089/jwh.2019.7859.