Women Physicians Gather Jan. 15 for EmpowHERment

CANFIELD, Ohio — EmpowHERment, a support group for women in medicine, is holding its second event Wednesday evening at The Lake Club in Poland to focus on the challenges all women professionals face at work and at home.

The group, formed by Dr. Meredythe McNally-Ryznar and Dr. Shannon McNally-Velasquez, held its inaugural event in September during which more than 90 female physicians gathered for camaraderie and discussion.

The second gathering, which begins at 6 p.m. with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, will feature Brea Schmidt, founder of the The Thinking Branch blog. She will deliver the keynote address, “Branching out in 2020: Building the Best Version of You,” at 7 p.m. A panel discussion featuring Schmidt and female executives from other professions and business owners will follow.

“When we planned our first event, all of us involved hoped the event would have an impact on these amazing women in our community who were experiencing the same challenges we face everyday by trying to juggle the care we provide for our patients, our friends, our families and ourselves,” says Dr. Meredythe McNally-Ryznar, a gastroenterologist at Salem Regional Medical Center and co-founder of EmpowHERment.

“The feedback from over 90 surveys submitted by our attendees at the first event, helped us develop an approach to 2020 that will provide insight and inspiration to some of the most pressing issues women in medicine, and in general, face today.”

McNally-Ryznar cites a 2017 Harvard study that found female physicians are less likely to get patient referrals than men in the same specialty. Furthermore, they earn, on average, 27% less than their male counterparts, according to a 2018 survey conducted by Doximity.

These inequalities, as well as being challenged with personal demands such as the impact of pregnancy, childbirth, and child rearing, and an insufficient number of females in leadership roles, have caused untold numbers of female physicians to experience burnout or other health concerns, McNally-Ryznar says.

Accordingly, EmpowHERment is intended to connect female physicians who may be experiencing similar challenges, she says.

“While we have focused on female physicians in each of our first two gatherings, the challenges we are going through are shared with all professional women,” adds Dr. Shannon McNally-Velasquez, an internist with Community Medical Partners and co-founder of EmpowHERment.  “In medicine, collaboration is key to providing the best quality of care for patients and their families. With that understanding, we will apply that same principle to our events this year and are excited about branching out EmpowHERment to include women of all professions in 2020.”

Upcoming events, she continues, will identify challenges and work on developing a platform to help solve them collectively, regardless of personal or professional situations.

Schmidt, the keynote speaker, is a former sports sales executive, who started a photography business in 2011 and launched “The Thinking Branch” blog in 2016, which has grown to reach a social media community of 50,000.

“I’ve heard so many people calling 2020 the year of clarity — seeking that 20/20 vision for what they truly want for their families, their careers and their lives,” says Schmidt.  “I love that EmpowHERment is taking action to bring these physicians together to uplift and encourage each other as they navigate the path toward that goal.

In addition to Schmidt, the panel discussion will feature:

  • Erin Sardich, market director/executive director with JPMorgan Chase Bank.
  • Gina Agresta Richardson, attorney and owner of Gina Richardson Law LLC.
  • Erica Fleming, co-owner of Mega Barre Youngstown
  • Laura Paden Zavadil, co-Owner of Mega Barre Youngstown and owner of Barre Youngstown

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