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14th Annual Gathering


Each year, WWHF partners with Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield, WI to hold “The Gathering.” Since 2002, the Gathering has provided women an opportunity to meet old and new friends, view exhibits, and access information and resources they need to be healthy. This free event is designed to engage and energize attendees, teach new information that can be applied in real life, and help women set personal health goals. Participants learn to become better advocates for their, and their families’, health in a way that allows them to create balance, wholeness, and wellness in body, mind, and spirit. Over 120 people attended this year’s Gathering, themed, “Connecting the Dots: From Clinical Trials to Healthy Lifestyles.”


Panelists, from left: Dr. Laura Strong, Sharon Brigner, Lori Weigel, and Sara Planton.

Vanessa Freitag, Vice President of Ministry Health Care, welcomed the attendees to the 14th Annual Gathering. The event opened with Sharon Brigner, MS, RN, Deputy Vice President of State Advocacy at PhRMA, one of the nation’s largest leading biopharmaceutical researchers and biotechnology companies. Ms. Brigner shared PhRMA’s “Research in Your Backyard” report and introduced the “Clinical Trials & Women in Clinical Research” panel, for which she was joined by Sara Planton, BSN, CCRC; Dr. Laura Strong, PhD; and Lori Weigel, MBA, CCRP, CHRC.

Ms. Planton, Director of Clinical Trails at Aurora Research Institute, spoke about clinical trials and focused on general population participation in them. Participation in clinical trials helps to advance medical knowledge and increases awareness of the need for research. And anyone is eligible to participate – especially women of all ages. For decades, clinical trials used mainly men in research and generalized the results for women; today, science has a better understanding of the biological differences between males and females, and researchers are actively encouraging women to join in.

Dr. Strong, President & COO of Quintessence Bioscience, Inc., explained more about new drug discovery and development. The majority of drugs do not make it through the four stages of laboratory testing, let alone to non-clinical and human clinical testing, which is why drug development is so costly and time-consuming.

Ms. Weigel, Administrator at Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation & Research Center and Biomedical Informatics Research Center Analyzing Drugs (BIRC), discussed data analysis and the final stages of drug development. Teams analyze criteria and statistics from physicians and document data trends before presenting their results to the International Review Board (IRB). The IRB then determines validation of the research findings and the possible extent of improvement on healthcare quality, delivery, and education.

Eliz Greene talks about the balls that women juggle in life…including the unexpected chainsaw thrown in the mix!

The next speaker, Eliz Greene, presented “Juggling Stress” – improving daily health for busy women. Ms. Greene became a motivational speaker and champion for women’s heart health after surviving a massive heart attack, the premature cesarean delivery of her twin daughters, and open heart surgery all on the same day. She encouraged participants to learn to say “no” and to add simple physical activity to their daily lives – including getting the entire audience up on their feet to dance to “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.


After lunch and activities led by WWHF staff, Dr. David Gundersen, DDS, MPH, closed the conference with his presentation on women’s oral health. He stressed the importance of good dental hygiene as the mouth is one of the major access points to the rest of the body. Additionally, he explained the four main pillars of good oral health:

  1. Brush twice a day for two minutes.
  2. Floss once a day.
  3. Eat healthy.
  4. See the dentist regularly.

The Gathering closed with raffle drawings for door prizes, distribution of free WWHF 2016 calendars, and time for feedback. Attendees reported:

“It was all great information – we are never too old to learn new information. But I really enjoyed it all – thanks so much!!”

“I appreciate the opportunity to learn about taking better care of myself from professionals.”

 “I didn’t think I would be interested in the Clinical Trials Panel – but I was fascinated. I

 enjoyed the quality of the speakers and the diversity of topics.”

 “I enjoyed most gathering together for women’s health issues – and I always learn something new.”

“I’m thankful that women can come to a wonderful conference such as this…and I’m proud to see so many women holding high positions!”

“Excellent speakers every year! Thank you so much!”


Sue Richards, RN, BSN, FCN, leads a hula hoop exercise activity with attendees.

Thank you to everyone who made this year’s Gathering a wonderful success, and we look forward seeing you next year!


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