Panel Offers Empowerment in Celebration of Women’s History Month

By Spencer Watson

HerStories logoPresented by the UAMS Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and moderated by Sherie Brown, executive director of UAMS Operational Support Services, the event offered input and advice on matters of nutrition, self-care, wellness, personal finance and faith to attending students, faculty and staff.

In a recorded message kicking off the event, UAMS Provost Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D., welcomed those gathered and noted how women have filled critical roles at UAMS over the past year.

“More than 70% of the members of Team UAMS are women, meaning they’ve been instrumental in one way or another in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are very glad to have these women on our team,” she said.

Setting a tone that would be carried throughout the presentation, panelist Nakia Dedner began with a discussion of self-care emphasizing the need for “taking conversations up” – that is, ending on a positive note.

“With everything going on, you may need to unload, but don’t be that person who is only dumping on another individual, because they’re going through things, too,” she said, emphasizing the need to find a bright side and to consider things to be thankful for.

Panelist Stephanie Matthews spoke about investing in the self with smart money management, both in terms of saving for emergencies and investing for retirement. She encouraged more conversations about money and saving, especially for those with questions about how to invest. She also encouraged those with expendable income to remember to invest in local business, including women- and minority-owned businesses.

“I think that’s my key piece of advice: money doesn’t have to be the root of evil. It can be the root of good. It can have a ripple effect,” she said.

Picking up on that theme, Mande Corbett spoke about the thriving operations of Stocked & Reddie, which has proven a vital resource to many throughout the pandemic, with members both utilizing its services and volunteering to give back.

“We’re not just meeting the immediate need of nutrition here, but making new foods available for people as they find veggies and proteins and protein alternatives, so that people are seeing a food pantry not as a one-way transaction, not like disaster relief, but as a way to form relationships,” she said.

Those relationships are important, said panelist Samara Duckworth, speaking on wellness, because the last year has seen a rise in isolation, amplifying negative emotions like fear. She advised people find ways to stay connected and maintain conversations even if using new and unconventional methods.

“It’s been touched on, but we’re social creatures. We need to get together, and we can’t during this pandemic,” she said, encouraging more video chats, phone calls and texts to check in with friends and loved ones.

Addressing spiritual matters, panelist Odette Woods reminded everyone that the past year has also been one of loss for many, and that with loss comes grieving.

“There is no time limit on grief or loss, and everyone grieves in their own way,” she noted. “Give yourself permission to grieve for as long as you need to.”

However, to avoid becoming overwhelmed, Woods advised people to remind themselves of previous challenges faced and overcome and to find affirmation in those triumphs.

Gloria Richard-Davis, M.D., MBA, executive director for the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, wrapped up the event with a message of empowerment.

“I think we’ve all learned the operative word here is to pivot, to find new ways of doing things differently,” she said. “We’ve had to learn how to do things differently during this pandemic, and while we’re all so ready to be past this, we want to do it safely. We have to be strategic and methodical in how we reopen safely.

“But know that you are not alone,” she added. “Each of us can survive and still thrive during this pandemic.”