A reflection on attending the 2018 Women Leaders in Global Health Conference: Lauren Wedekind

MSc Public Health (2017) alumna, Lauren Wedekind spoke to us about her experience of attending the 2nd Women Leaders in Global Health Conference hosted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Lauren chose to study at LSHTM in the academic year 2016/17 as she wanted to learn from peers and mentors from diverse backgrounds and with interests in global health. She was particularly interested in connecting with colleagues regarding health disparities and non-communicable diseases – especially diabetes. She told us “through my thesis, I orchestrated a jointly-mentored project at the intersection of genetics and epidemiology, and met my current supervisors who work at the intersection of genetics and epidemiology. I investigated interactions between genetic and environmental factors with respect to type 2 diabetes within the United Kingdom Biobank, and have continued similar work beginning my doctoral training. I hope to continue the wonderful friendships and collaborations that I began at LSHTM far into the future.”

Lauren attended the Women Leaders in Global Health Conference that was hosted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine on 8th and 9th November 2018. Reflecting on her experience of the conference, Lauren said: “Women Leaders in Global Health 2018 provided a means for many of us interested in global health and women’s health to connect and meet in person, from many fields, backgrounds and countries. I hope that in the future more people from lower-income backgrounds who have not yet had the chance to attend the conference will have access to share and learn there. For example, as a volunteer on the Communications and Mentorship committees, I am grateful to have worked alongside Laurie Garrett, science journalist and author, to co-develop a presentation on gender in academia. I am also grateful to have sat with Joanne Liu, International President of MSF, to hear about her personal development and motivations during the mentorship breakfast. I hope to help open up access to service and learning opportunities like this to other young people who care about their communities and public health.”

Lauren found Laurie Garrett’s presentation, “From Eunice to You” to be a moving and galvanising presentation during the parallel sessions on day 2. “She presented compelling evidence of gender bias and disparities that have hampered the development of women, particularly those of underrepresented backgrounds, in academia. Further, she made calls to action on how institutions, and those in power within them, can enable a more equal future for those from backgrounds underrepresented in academia, particularly within the sciences.”

“While we were conducting the research to put together Laurie’s talk, I reflected on my own experiences and stage as a young person at the beginning of my research training. Looking back even one generation, I appreciate that many women in my generation experience more support and access to learn and train within science fields. However, there are many instances in which conscious or unconscious expectations, stereotypes, words and actions discourage people of underrepresented backgrounds from continuing this work and training. I hope that collaborations and presentations like the one Laurie and I co-developed can serve to push for more reflection and equity within our learning environments, across backgrounds and generations.”

Feature image of Lauren Wedekind and Joanne Liu, International President of Médecins Sans Frontières. Image courtesy of Lauren Wedekind.

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