#WOW the Wonder of Women Summit at the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center on April 11, 2019, brought together thought leaders in science, health, culture and sports for a second consecutive year to create a day of learning and connection to benefit mental health education, research, innovation scholarships and clinical care programs at UCLA. Hosted by UCLA’s The Friends of the Semel Institute and the Stewart and Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA Board of Advisors, the event was emceed by actress, writer and producer Lisa Kudrow, a Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital board member. The day opened with remarks from Johnese Spisso, president of UCLA Health, CEO of the UCLA Hospital System and associate vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences, as well as #wow founding co-chairs Cece Feiler and Terry Hyman Hamermesh. A performance by UCLA alumna, singer-songwriter and actress Sara Bareilles followed, bringing the crowd to its feet.
The key message that whole health includes mental health resonated throughout the day, which began with a morning mindfulness session led by Diana Winston, director of mindfulness education at the UCLA Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior Mindful Awareness Research Center. Julianne Hough, well-known for her role as a judge on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, and Dr. Wendy Suzuki, professor of neural science and psychology at New York University, got everyone moving with a dance break and spoke about Dr. Suzuki’s research that illuminates the impact of dance and movement on the brain and mental health.
Speakers shared heartfelt stories and personal insights about providing service to others, overcoming challenges and achieving life goals. Attendees heard actionable, evidence-based ideas about how to improve health and well-being in their own lives and those of their loved ones. Panels included a discussion moderated by anchor and reporter Lisa Sigell about dating in the digital age, featuring author and journalist Laurie Burrows Grad; TV host Poppy Jamie, who founded the mental health well-being app Happy Not Perfect; and Dr. Gail Wyatt (PhD ’73), director of the UCLA Sexual Health Program and the Center for Culture, Trauma, and Mental Health Disparities.
Dana Katz, UCLA Health Operation Mend’s volunteer director of community engagement and buddy programs and Resnick Hospital board member, moderated a panel about personal experiences with Operation Mend and its innovative programs to treat post-traumatic stress and mild traumatic brain injury, featuring Dr. Jo Sornborger, director of psychological health programs for UCLA Operation Mend; and program participants Judy Cusack, a retired educator and mother of two U.S. Army veterans, and retired U.S. Army Major Yolanda Poullard, who commanded soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
To spotlight the most recent science on the mind-gut connection and how to optimize nutrition to support brain health, Lori Corbin, nutrition and fitness reporter for ABC7 Eyewitness News, spoke with Dr. Zhaoping Li (FEL ’94), Lynda and Stewart Resnick Endowed Chair in Human Nutrition and director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. Dr. Nina Shapiro, UCLA professor of head and neck surgery and director of pediatric ear, nose and throat at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, dispelled medical myths to help attendees make informed choices. Dr. Robin Berman, UCLA associate professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and board of advisors member of the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, focused on motherhood in her discussion with Dr. Catherine Birndorf, co-founder and medical director of The Motherhood Center of New York.
In the afternoon, UCLA women’s gymnastics senior student-athlete Katelyn Ohashi, who has earned 11 perfect-10 scores, including six this year, was joined by former UCLA gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field. Both women shared stories of friendship and resilience.
Photos: Thomas Neerken
A highlight of the summit was the announcement of a new partnership to form the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Research Initiative at UCLA. The announcement was made by Dr. Kelsey C. Martin, dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Gerald S. Levey, M.D., Endowed Chair; and Maria Shriver, journalist, author, NBC News special anchor and founder of The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. “This is groundbreaking, because if we understand the causes of Alzheimer’s disease in women, then we’ll be able to develop targeted and effective treatments,” Dr. Martin said.
The day concluded with a panel moderated by Michele Ruiz, CEO of Ruiz Strategies, featuring two trailblazers in discovery science. Dr. Ming Guo (RES ’01, FEL ’02), P. Gene & Elaine Smith Chair in Alzheimer’s Disease Research and UCLA professor of neurology and pharmacology, spoke about her discoveries in neurodegenerative disease and the possibilities of reversing aging at the cellular level. Dr. Linda M. Liau (RES ’97, FEL ’98, PhD ’99), chair of the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery and the W. Eugene Stern Chair in Neurosurgery, described her focus on neuro-immunology and her pioneering work to prevent the recurrence of brain cancer.
For more information, contact Karen Colimore at: 310-267-0496