A look back on the Fourth Annual Women’s Health Research Symposium

On Friday, May 31st, 2019 the Women’s Health Research Institute welcomed over 200 members of the women’s health research community and its other stakeholders to the beautiful Vancouver Convention Centre for a day spent exploring work at the forefront of global women’s health research.

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Our Fourth Annual Women’s Health Research Symposium was uniquely positioned as a pre-conference event for Women Deliver, which placed Vancouver at the centre of a variety of vital conversations around gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women.

The day began with an acknowledgement of the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, led by Elder Valerie Nicholson who set the tone for the day with a powerful call-to-action: “As learners, please teach; as teachers, please learn.”

Welcoming remarks were offered by Professor Santa Ono, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of British Columbia, and Katja Iversen, President and Chief Executive Officer, Women Deliver.

An inspiring keynote presentation followed, moderated by Dr. Gina Ogilvie and presented by Dr. Princess Nothemba (Nono) Simelela of the World Health Organization, who shared their vision and strategy for a future where cervical cancer has been eliminated globally. The WHO has set an ambitious, but achievable goal of the elimination of cervical cancer by 2030.

Other presentations included a look at the Health of Adolescent Girls in the Local and Global Context, featuring research by Drs. Grace Jaramillo, Angela Kaida, and Tricia Ong; a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Roopan Gill on Health and Human Rights Across the Reproductive Life Cycle for Women with discussion by Dr. Grace Jaramillo, Ms Julia Anderson, and Professor Saraswathi Vedam; and a talk on the health inequities that exist among adolescent girls by Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc.

Our breakout sessions examined the issue of underfunding in women’s health research, shed light on research around respectful maternity care, and introduced BC Women’s Health Foundation’s new expanded mandate.

The afternoon carried pace with a series of presentations on digital health projects benefitting women’s health, which featured Dr. Manjulaa Narasimhan of the World Health Organization speaking about their new guidelines on self-care interventions to support sexual and reproductive health rights of women and girls; Dr. Beth Payne, who spoke about her work on with UBC PRE-EMPT and the PIERS project; and Dr. Roopan Gill, who discussed her research on digital tools to provide post-abortion support.

The day concluded with a brief award ceremony, presented by Drs. Lori Brotto and Gina Ogilvie. Dr. Dorothy Shaw was awarded the Career Contribution to Women’s Health Research Award for her inspiring and tireless work to advocate for women’s health. Amanda Rowlands, Master’s of Science candidate, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, and Kalysha Closson, PhD candidate, School of Population & Public Health, University of British Columbia, were each awarded a Women’s Global Health Research Trainee Award.

Closing remarks were offered by Ms. Divya Mathew, Senior Manager, Research, Policy & Advocacy, Women Deliver.