During the weekend of November 14, more than 100 alumni, parents, and friends of St. Andrew's joined our current students on campus to participate in our 2015 Women's Network weekend. The weekend's theme was The Art of Healing: A Symposium on Medicine, and we celebrated—and learned from—our alumni working in medicine.
Events included two keynote talks, one on Friday night from Dr. Janice Nevin '77 P'13, the CEO of Christiana Health Care, a network of nonprofit hospitals spanning the mid-Atlantic, and the other on Saturday morning from Dr. Kyla Terhune, a former faculty member of the School, currently an Associate Professor of Surgery at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and Director of Vanderbilt's General Surgery Residency Program. Both women expanded our thinking about the definition of healing and shared insights into their work as both leaders and healers.
"The word healing really is all about becoming whole," Nevin said during the course of her talk. "It's repairing, it's regenerating, and not just physically but spiritually and mentally. It's about the elimination of suffering. And it's really ultimately about what makes us human. It's a very powerful concept."
"Dr. Nevin and Dr. Terhune both spoke about the power of human connection and empathy in the notion of healing," said Bernadette Devine, Co-Director of the Women's Network. "This was the essence of what occurred here this weekend."
The St. Andrew's Women's Network was founded in 2010 with a goal of connecting, celebrating, and harnessing the power of the School's alumnae through events both on and off campus. When alumnae return to campus for Women's Network events, they share their experiences and insights with current students, as well as reconnect with each other and with the School. Since its inception, Women's Network events have expanded in size and scope, and have become central to our mission to provide community, inspiration, and mentorship for all members of our community.
Panelists and workshop leaders who came to campus for The Art of Healing weekend shared strategies for engaging in physical, mental, and spiritual regeneration, and also spoke candidly about the challenges and joys of working in medicine. Beyond the keynotes, events included a discussion panel led by alumnae working in a wide variety of medical fields—from orthopedic surgery to midwifery, from family medicine to pediatric cardiac surgery—and 40 workshops led by individual alumni and parents which took place across campus on Saturday morning.
"One of the hallmarks of being a successful leader is that you surround yourself with people who are much smarter than you," Nevin said, "and when you do that, it's because you want to listen and learn from them. So I have to say, I am a little intimidated and certainly humbled at the opportunity to share some thoughts with you. I am definitely in the presence of people who are much smarter than I am!"
"I was overwhelmed by and appreciative of everyone who came back to participate as leaders of this event," said Elizabeth Roach, Co-Director of the Women's Network. "What they did in their lives to make this happen—I think it shows a pretty extraordinary commitment to the School. I'm grateful to them; they invested so beautifully in the whole process and the whole weekend."
"There is something to St. Andrew's—the magnetic pull of this place—that draws so many of us back time and time again," said Natalie Reese '97, who came back to lead a workshop on self-care strategies. "Though no longer students, many of us still wish to be part of St. Andrew's, and to learn, collaborate and contribute in a way that serves the whole community. The Art of Healing weekend was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect, share, and confirm that while many of us may no longer be on campus, we are still part of the larger St. Andrew's organism."
"The work we choose to do beyond St. Andrew's is not separate from the work we began as students," continued Reese. "It's an extension of that work. This community has such a wealth of resources in terms of the minds, hearts, and work of its people."
Workshop topics were wide-ranging; a number focused on personal strategies for mental and physical well-being, while others gave insight into specific medical fields and even medical techniques. For example, Annette Rickolt '87 P'14,'16 led a workshop on how to place an endotracheal tube in a newborn. In the next room, Jose Antonio Pando P'14,'17 led a discussion of traditional Incan health modalities which can be applied to our everyday lives.
"I have to admit, I was a little nervous," said Carolyn Matthews '77 P'17. "This was my first time teaching high school students, and there was the added pressure of having my former classmates Steve Salter '77 and Janice Nevin '77 in the room! But the Harkness table was full, and we had fun talking about how food can affect genetic expression, and how genetically modified foods can affect our health. I love that the workshop led to some provocative questions. Truthfully, I think about the questions the students asked that day frequently."
Dr. Michael Atalay, who gave a demonstration of cutting-edge cardiac imaging techniques, also cited the excellent discussions that took place within his workshop. "Throughout the weekend, I savored my time with faculty, students, fellow parents, and several former SAS classmates," he said, "but especially during an energetic and engaging small-group workshop. Of course, I was already familiar with the material in my talk, so my only regret was not being able to partake in any of a number of other wonderful presentations."
"My daughter [Marion Humphreys '17] attended the 'How to Tie Your Shoes Like a Surgeon' workshop [led by Chris Turner '97]," Matthews said. "She was utterly breathless with excitement about the knots she had learned to tie, and the gruesome film they'd watched of repairing a chest gunshot wound. I think she may want to be a surgeon now!"
"I loved seeing our alumni as teachers," Roach noted. "They had a great presence and connection with the students in the room. It is always powerful for our students to hear about the extraordinary lives our alumni are leading. In turn, our alumni are inspired by the engagement and curiosity of our current students. There's this kind of magic that happens in these workshops."
Devine agreed. "It was magical to see old friends reconnecting after 20 years, faculty and advisors reconnecting with their former students, and, best of all, to see our alumni and parents in the classroom leading workshops for our students— teaching, inspiring, learning together," she said. "This collaboration, this kind of connection, is what the St. Andrew's spirit is all about."
Select 2015 Women's Network events can be viewed on our Livestream channel at standrews-de.org/livestream; photos are available on our Flickr page.