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Highlights from the Second Annual Women of WUDA Retreat 

The Women of WUDA (Washington University Department of Anesthesiology), affectionately known as WoW, hosted its second annual retreat on Saturday, March 9, at Holmes Lounge on the Danforth Campus. Over 100 women from the department gathered to connect and network, hear from women in medicine, and participate in wellness activities.  

The day commenced as Michael S. Avidan, MBBCh, FCA SA, head of the department, extended a warm welcome to all attendees. He initiated an engaging discussion focused on the climate and culture of both the department and the institution at large. During this introductory session, participants were invited to collaboratively brainstorm ideas that would support and facilitate effective implementation strategies.

Liza Weavind, MBBCh, FCCM, MMHC, professor of anesthesiology and surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, captivated the audience with her talk titled “Motivated by Purpose, Energized by Passion. Owning Transformative Engagement.” Her insights provided a motivational foundation for the day, encouraging attendees to take control of their career and build their own professional brand. Addressing imposter syndrome to the attendees, Weavind provided practical advice on pursuing opportunities and dreams, empowering them to overcome self-doubt and seize their potential.

The retreat also featured Olga Kipnis, assistant dean for organizational excellence at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who shared her expertise on “The Art of Designing Your Life.” Exploring both personal and professional aspects of life, her guidance on mindfulness and strategies for navigating extreme anxiety and stress provided a holistic perspective on life design, helping participants find balance and purpose in their journeys.

“Attending the retreat has already had such an impact for me, both personally and professionally,” said Grant Specialist II, Katie Geist. “I am so thankful for events like these where we support each other in becoming stronger, healthier women and building a community that supports us in our goals.”

Following the morning sessions, the afternoon continued with a presentation from Alicia Ott, MA, LPC, on “Cultivating Wellness, Fostering Peace — How Individual Resilience Shapes Professional Mindset.” Ott is a staff therapist with the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis with expertise in clinical therapy. Her insights reinforced the importance of individual well-being in cultivating a positive and productive professional mindset, serving as a reminder that personal resilience is key to professional success. 

Molly McCormick, MD, and Erin Herrera, CRNA, also discussed the importance of mentorship, sponsorship, and coaching, highlighting their essential roles. They explored various methods to enhance the implementation of these practices within the department.

“Watching WoW come to life has been immensely rewarding. Our second retreat not only fostered a strong sense of community but also empowered each woman to embrace her potential,” said Herrera. “The success of the day affirms the importance of creating spaces that encourage connection, growth, and well-being within our community.”

In addition to the professional development content, attendees also enjoyed various wellness activities, including a painting session led by Clare Ridley, MD, creating mantra/affirmation bracelets, and Tarot Card readings. The day concluded with closing remarks and a raffle, leaving the participants inspired, connected, and supported by the department. The success of the second retreat highlights the importance of fostering a sense of community, empowerment, and professional development for every woman in the department. 

“WoW is a direct response from our department’s culture survey to build affinity groups, break intra-departmental silos, and highlight shared experiences as a woman in an academic medicine department,” said Associate Vice Chair for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Enyo Ablordeppey, MD, MPH, FACEP, FCCM. “I am proud to witness how WoW has served as a catalyst for these extraordinary women and am looking forward to more events in the future.”

Learn more about the Women of WUDA and how to become involved at https://anesthesiology.wustl.edu/our-culture/women-of-wuda/.