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Dome - A Woman's Journey Turns 20

Dome October 2014

A Woman's Journey Turns 20

Date: October 6, 2014

The annual health conference offers valuable insight on women's physical and emotional health.

Karen Swartz
Karen Swartz is the keynote speaker at A Woman’s Journey. An expert on mood disorders, she’ll speak about the healing power of forgiveness.
Photo by Keith Weller

When A Woman’s Journey (AWJ) debuted in 1995, there was no such thing as targeted drug therapies to prevent certain kinds of breast cancer from recurring or an HPV vaccine to guard against uterine cancer. The 650 women who attended that first conference craved information that could help them make informed decisions about their health. That thirst remains the driving force behind this year’s event that features 32 Johns Hopkins Medicine physicians and scientists sharing the latest developments on diverse topics in women’s health.

This year’s daylong conference takes place on Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Hilton Baltimore and is once again expected to draw roughly 1,000 people—yes, that includes some men, too—from Maryland and as many as 18 other states. Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Karen Swartz, a longtime speaker at AWJ, will give the plenary address on the healing power of forgiveness.

Swartz, the clinical programs director for the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center, has often seen the toll holding a grudge can take on one’s health. “If someone is stuck in an angry state, what they’re essentially doing is being in a state of sustained adrenaline,” she says. “This can lead to high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and a weakened immune response. You’re constantly putting your energy somewhere else.” 

The brainchild of cancer survivors Mollye Block and Harriet Legum, AWJ is guided by Leslie Waldman, director of consumer and physician engagement at Johns Hopkins, and Chris White, Johns Hopkins Medicine’s assistant dean for medicine. The conference empowers women to make effective health care decisions for themselves and those they love. “We continually strive to find compelling topics that resonate with women and keep things fresh,” says Waldman. These include the latest research on autoimmune disease, four simple steps offering protection against coronary disease and advances in skin rejuvenation.

Half the sessions this year are new, notes Waldman, and cover topics like the facts on lyme disease, understanding the science of marijuana and treatment options for digestive troubles. During these talks, faculty members, who volunteer their time, talk about new treatments, their research and its applications to women’s health.

Over the years, AWJ has expanded to hosting daylong conferences in Sarasota, Tampa, Palm Beach, Naples and St. Petersburg, Florida. Almost always sellouts, AWJ and its spinoffs require support from 100-plus staff members and volunteers. But the payoff is great, says Waldman. “I’ve seen mothers, daughters, sisters and friends reunite year after year at AWJ. And our physicians get a better sense of what’s on women’s minds.”

Swartz, who will return to AWJ for the ninth time, agrees that the benefits of attending the conference work both ways. “The people attending—from diverse backgrounds—are so lovely and intelligent,” she says. “They give up a day to make their family’s health a priority. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.”

—Judy F. Minkove


A Woman’s Journey

When: Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, 8:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Where: Hilton Baltimore

Cost: $125; $112.50 for Johns Hopkins Medicine employees; continuing education available from nine professional organizations


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