Flight attendants remind us to put on our own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. This makes sense. But as I flew back from a women’s health event recently, it struck me that this advice goes against my ingrained sense to care for others first.
It isn’t always easy for women to put ourselves first, even when it comes to carving out time for our physical and mental health.
For more than 20 years, Johns Hopkins has been presenting A Woman’s Journey, an annual conference that helps women make informed decisions about their health. Our physicians and scientists give first-hand information about advances in research and medicine that directly affect women.
Johns Hopkins initially held the event in Baltimore and then expanded to the DC region and a number of cities across Florida. In 2015, the year I became president of JHI, we expanded A Woman’s Journey to Bermuda—the first time we offered the program internationally.
The Bermuda event has been such a success, I knew I wanted to help bring A Woman’s Journey to Saudi Arabia. Our joint venture Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH) is providing quality health care and reliable, timely information about health and health care to the women, men and children among its patient population.
However, cultural and legal restrictions—such as the male guardianship system, gender segregation and religious norms—influence access, quality and outcomes of health care for women in Saudi Arabia. (Although it is promising to see changes that will benefit women in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, a roadmap to overhaul the Kingdom’s economy to be less dependent upon oil.)
Colleagues across both organizations saw great value in hosting A Woman’s Journey at JHAH to complement the universal, patient-centered care it's providing and to set an example of informing and empowering women in Saudi Arabia and making their health a priority.
Last year we invited three distinguished JHM physicians—all of them women—to participate in our inaugural A Woman’s Journey Saudi Arabia. They held sessions on managing stress, aging well and maintaining good digestive health. More than 450 women attended, including leaders and employees from JHAH and Saudi Aramco, our partner in the JHAH joint venture.
It was amazing and fulfilled a personal dream. I’m thrilled we were able to hold the event again this year. This time we presented important information about hormones throughout a woman's lifespan, making healthy lifestyle choices and the importance of sleep, and we reached more than 400 women from JHAH and Saudi Aramco.
Women around the world must overcome barriers to self-care—because prioritizing our health helps us bring our best selves to all that we do, including helping others.