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What National Women's History Month Means to Me

Health Hub
Author name: Lee Health


Women's History Month graphic

Did you know that March is Women’s History Month?

Each year, the National Women’s History Alliance chooses a theme, and this year it is “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.”

The Alliance says the theme is “both a tribute to the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during this ongoing pandemic and also a recognition of the thousands of ways that women of all cultures have provided both healing and hope throughout history.”

Women, as the primary healthcare decision-makers in U.S. households, face unique challenges both at home and in the workplace. But they must also deal with unique health concerns — after all, some of the health issues that affect both men and women affect women differently.

For instance, did you know:

  • Women are more likely to die after a heart attack than men
  • Women are more likely to show signs of depression and anxiety than men
  • The effects of sexually transmitted diseases can be more serious in women
  • Osteoarthritis affects more women than men
  • Women are more likely to have urinary tract problems

At Lee Health, we believe in equity, compassion, and leading the way with education and understanding. So we’ve gathered some thoughts from women in leadership positions to describe what this month means to them.

By sharing their stories, we hope to inspire more women to tell their own tales and to help shine the light on women’s issues – an understanding that ultimately helps us all:

“I think if I had to define my career, my life even, I would say that I have never been afraid of failing or doing something different than everyone else. That’s not to say I haven’t failed; believe me I’ve had some EPIC fails, and it isn’t to say that I haven’t had times of great self-doubt, but I have always been able to get back up and move on. I have been a PA (physician assistant) for 31 years this year. When I entered my profession it was in its infancy – there were some hospitals that wouldn’t even allow me to exam a patient without a physician present – so I had a lot of brick walls and glass ceilings that needed to come down. 

"What I learned from these experiences was obstacles will come down, but it requires patience and perseverance and most times it requires help. When I look back at the things I have accomplished it has rarely been something I did on my own. Whether you want to break down brick walls, build an empire, change the world or do a great job with your kids, as women we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.  We can and should help each other. 

"Great female leaders inspire other women not to fear failure or give in to self-doubt. That type of leadership frees women up to dream more, learn more, do more and become more.  I think that’s how we build a better world.”

- Catherine Murtagh-Schaffer, PA-C, Shipley Cardiothoracic Physician Assistant, Program Coordinator for Substance Abuse Program

“I am a woman that has had the privilege of serving as a leader in healthcare for the last 15 years. It is my responsibility to have a voice, advocate and never stray from my core values and guiding principles. It is an honor to work alongside so many talented and caring people and to connect and care for them. Fifteen years ago someone saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself and took a chance on me; I have been a nursing leader since that day.

"It is our responsibility to see those that do not see themselves and mentor and develop them into leaders that can, and will, be more successful than we are. True women in leadership will fix another woman’s crown without letting the world know it was crooked, we need to support and elevate each other. Always.”

-Alyssa Bostwick, Chief Nursing and Operations Executive, Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida

“As a woman, there might be the perceived need to continually prove your worth in the workplace. What I want to tell and model to others is that your value is unquestionable and you deserve to be at the table. As a woman and a leader, this is my opportunity not only to achieve results and make a positive impact where I work, but also to demonstrate healthy boundaries and a healthy lifestyle.

"Therefore, don’t forget to prioritize your family, health and relationships in life. You can be a phenomenal career woman without sacrificing yourself along the way.”

-Carrie Bloemers, Director Healthy Life Center - Education and Navigation

“I began volunteering as a ‘Candy Striper’ in my hometown hospital when I was 16 years old. I was hooked. I had found my passion. I spent the next 18 years in acute care nursing bedside and leader positions serving my patients, my community, and my fellow nurses.

"As I moved into ambulatory care for my next chapter, and now look back on a career that spans 44 years, I offer the following reflection: Women can enhance the lives of others by bringing gifts of intuition, enthusiasm, humor and communication, and collaboration to the world. One of my favorite women is Eleanor Roosevelt, and one of my favorite quotes of hers is, ‘A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong she is until she’s in hot water.’”

- Terry Mainous, MSN, RN, CMPE, Vice President of Operations, Lee Physician Group

“I am a woman who has had the privilege and honor of taking care of families in Southwest Florida battling cancer and blood disorders for the last 15 years. You may see me holding the hand of a parent receiving the worst news of their life or playing hide and seek with a cancer patient to ensure they smile for that time I have the privilege of caring for them. 

"I started out as a young student with a dream. It is because strong women saw potential in me ... that I have turned into the nurse I am today. In return, it is my turn to do the same for the next generation of nurses. In today’s society as strong women we have the opportunity to revolutionize women in leadership. The culture should always be one of encouragement, inspiration, and confidence.”

-Rachel Toa, RN, Critical Care, Pediatric OP Cancer Center

“I am blessed to have a sister by blood and so many sisters by choice. Personally, I treasure lifelong relationships with strong and genuine woman, and professionally, I have been inspired by women mentors during my 30-year healthcare marketing career. I am proud to work at Lee Health, an organization that celebrates the unique and valuable attributes of women and encourages them to grow in their chosen profession.

"I am honored to serve currently on the inaugural Women in Leadership program, and I am learning how to refine my leadership skills, build upon my strengths and work on areas to improve. Learning is a lifelong process, and my goal is to give back to future women leaders. Now, more than ever, our voice is so important, and we need to encourage and acclaim each other.

"One of my favorite quotes is from Serena Williams: 'Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another.  We are strongest when we cheer each other on.'"

-Lisa O’Neil, System Director, Marketing & Brand Management

As the Director for Women’s Services at Cape Coral Hospital for the last 22 years, I have the honor of leading a team that cares for women every day. In providing care for the women we serve, it is our duty to truly listen to them, honor their wishes and provide them with the best possible healthcare. This has involved me in working closely with the Association of Women’s Health Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses on the local, state and national level as we commit to provide respectful care to all women and work to lower the maternal morbidity and mortality rate across the United States and promote women's health.  

"Being an advocate for change is something we embrace."

-Nancy Travis, Director of Women’s Services, Cape Coral Hospital

"One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. On International Women’s Day (March 8), I reflect on my past cancer diagnosis and the gift of seeing how much love and kindness the women around me shared during my treatment. I felt supported and encouraged every step of my journey. Whether it was a friend going to a doctor’s appointment with me, a co-worker bringing a meal, or another girlfriend offering to watch my daughter during recovery, I had so many amazing women to lean on.

"I recall a quote a friend sent me a few days after my diagnosis: 'The circle of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we’re weak and sing with us when we are strong.' –Sark.

"I now have a passion to inspire women around me to live a healthy lifestyle for cancer prevention and I make time to support those going through a similar journey on once did."

-Molly Grubbs, Community Business Development Representative

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