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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 8, 2004 | Vol. 34 No. 11
A Feminine Perspective on Health

Christine White and Leslie Waldman oversee the now-10-year-old conference that annually draws more than 1,000 women to hear from Johns Hopkins experts.

For savvy consumers, 'A Woman's Journey' is the path to educated choices

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Leslie G. Waldman, director for competitive strategy at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said that Hopkins knew it was onto something when the first A Woman's Journey drew nearly double the expected turnout. In the following years, Waldman said, attendance numbers not only grew, but familiar faces would appear in the crowd as, for many, the event became a not-to-be-missed destination.

On Nov. 20, Johns Hopkins will host its 10th annual A Woman's Journey, an all-day women's health conference to be held at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel, located at 700 Aliceanna St.

The event is an opportunity for women of all ages to come together in one place and gather health information from dozens of Johns Hopkins faculty members, many of whom are on the cutting edge of medical discoveries. It annually draws more than 1,000 women from as many as 18 states.

Waldman, coordinator of the conference, said that it has sold out every year, and she expects that it will again this month. Ninety-eight percent of past participants have rated the program either "excellent" or "above average," Waldman said, and the event has sprouted an extremely loyal following.

"Women purchase about 75 percent of the health care in the United States, buying it for themselves and their families," she said. "They are very interested in health information and having access to the latest medical findings, and that is why they come back each year."

The two women responsible for bringing about the conference are Mollye Block and Harriet Legum, the event's co-chairs. The two became friends when Block moved to Baltimore, learning soon after of their common interest in health. It was Legum's cancer experience in particular that got the pair thinking about health education.

Before she was diagnosed, Legum already suspected through self-examinations that she had breast cancer. She went from physician to physician with her concern, each of them denying the existence of any cancerous growth. Then one morning Legum felt a change--the lump had grown larger--and she decided to go to Johns Hopkins. This time, she was diagnosed with cancer and was finally able to begin her battle against the disease.

Legum was to return to Hopkins seven years later, not just to say thanks for helping her beat the cancer but, accompanied by Block, to meet with Waldman and offer a proposal.

Waldman said that the two women wanted to find a way to provide women with health education so that they would be in a better position to make educated health care decisions for themselves and their families. The conference was born from that one meeting.

Among those instrumental in the organization of the conference has been Christine White, assistant dean for medicine in the School of Medicine, who works with Block, Legum and Waldman to plan the programs, and with the nearly 100 volunteers who staff the event and work behind the scenes.

White said that even with a wealth of up-to-date health information available in books and on the Internet, A Woman's Journey fills a vital need in that it provides direct access to the physicians who are doing the research and allows people to hear and ask questions about the present and future advances in medicine.

"It's also a chance to interact with others, some of whom suffer from the same health problems or are caring for family with similar health problems," White said.

The upcoming conference will run from 8:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. The fee for the event is $70 per person, including a continental breakfast, lunch and handouts; a reduced fee of $45 is offered to any full-time matriculating student with school identification. All Johns Hopkins affiliates will receive a 20 percent discount on registration.

Its speakers are faculty members and other specialists who over the years have represented the schools of Medicine, Public Health, Nursing and Arts and Sciences; Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center; and two outpatient centers, Johns Hopkins at Green Spring Station and at White Marsh. This year, 41 faculty members will give presentations.

The participants will choose four sessions from among 32 health topics, including "Back from the Brink," a discussion on the diagnosis, treatment and preventive strategies related to strokes; "Gynecological Cancers," a talk about the myths and facts of female-specific cancers; "What's Safe to Eat," a discussion on food-related diseases; and "The Not-So-Extreme Makeover for Younger Women," in which doctors from the Hopkins Cosmetic Center will provide before-and-after illustrations of cosmetic surgery treatments ranging from body sculpting to breast enhancement.

CDs of each seminar will be available on-site following the event.

Each seminar consists of a 45-minute formal presentation and a 15-minute question-and-answer period. The topics are chosen based on an online survey, program evaluations and the latest in Hopkins research.

"Everyone who attends gets something different out of it," Waldman said. "They are able to attend sessions on health issues that pertain to them or their family. It's a day to spend time with 1,000 people and talk about common issues. One thing that hasn't changed is our effort to extend health education to women of all ages."

The conference will begin with a plenary session titled "One Woman's Journey: Exuberance!" presented by psychologist and noted author Kay Jamison, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences in the School of Medicine.

Participants will also have a "Lunch with the Faculty" featuring a special presentation by Azar Nafisi, professorial lecturer and visiting fellow at the School of Advanced International Studies and director of the Dialogue Project. Nafisi, author of the highly acclaimed Reading Lolita in Tehran, will share her story about the need to advance human rights for women around the globe.

To register or for more details, call 410-955-8660, e-mail or go to


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