"Empowered Women Lead with Compassion": Stony Brook Summit Uplifts Women in Healthcare Leadership

Doctor Aleksandra Krajewski
Dr. Aleksandra Krajewski

Only 25 percent of healthcare executive leadership positions are held by women, despite women accounting for 70 percent of the healthcare sector, worldwide (according to the World Health Organization). In surgical healthcare fields, this number is even lower. With this discrepancy in mind, Stony Brook Division of Plastic Surgery's Dr. Aleksandra Krajewski, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Director of Gender Affirming Surgery, Chair Stony Brook Department of Surgery Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee; Associate Program Director Stony Brook University Hospital (SBUH) General Surgery Residency Program, and Site Director SBUH/Nassau University Medical Center Plastic Surgery Residency, created and hosted the first Women in Healthcare Leadership Summit.

Held on May 3rd at Stony Brook Hospital's MART Auditorium, the Summit's aim was to bring together Stony Brook Medicine's female healthcare providers to create a forum for discussion, build a community of future leaders and offer advice for women seeking healthcare leadership positions. Dr. Krajewski, who opened the Summit with her opening remarks, said "The Inaugural women in healthcare leadership summit accomplished its mission by bringing together talented women leaders at Stony Brook of diverse backgrounds for a day of inspiration, education, and comradery. We hope this the first of many impactful events for the women in healthcare at Stony Brook."



Keynote Speaker

Judith Brown Clarke, PhD
Judith Brown Clarke, PhD

Judith Brown Clarke, PhD, Stony Brook's Vice President for Equity & Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, delivered the keynote address. Dr. Clarke's powerful, inspiring speech touched on her success in education, management, politics and as an Olympic athlete.

"At the Women in Healthcare Leadership Summit, we celebrate the power of empowered women who lead with compassion, innovate with purpose, and inspire change in healthcare," said Dr. Clarke. "Their leadership is the heartbeat of progress, propelling us towards a healthier, more equitable future for all. We don't just discuss productivity and excellence; we embrace the place where empowerment meets action, and transformation begins."



First Panel Session

After a Q&A session with Dr. Clarke, the leadership lectures began. First up at the lectern was Patricia Cooper, JD, RN, CHC, Chief Compliance Officer, Stony Brook Medicine, who delivered a lecture titled, Shattering Limitations: Insights from Breaking the Glass Ceiling. Cooper spoke of her personal journey, the challenges she faced and, ultimately, her road to a leadership position.

First Panel of Speakers
(left to right) Patricia Cooper, JD, RN, CHC, Ally Silver, MPH, FACHE, and Anne Walsh-Feeks, MS, PA (ASCP), FACHE

"The Women in Healthcare Leadership event was a culmination of stories and tools shared by just a few of Stony Brook Medicine’s extraordinary leaders," she said. "Leadership comes at a P.R.I.C.E. - we must: be Prepared; Redirect any limiting self-talk toward positive ones; declare our Intention; Commit to act; and surround ourselves with a positive and motivating Energy squad."

Ally Silver, MPH, FACHE, AVP Operations, Surgical Services, Stony Brook University Hospital, followed with a talk about mentorship and sponsorship. Silver stressed the importance of strong guidance and encouragement as an essential tool for women seeking leadership positions in healthcare.

"It was an inspiring and motivating day – the short presentations kicked off topics that impact all current and inspiring leaders and more importantly will be the catalyst for expanded programming in the near future. Professional growth, mentorship and a commitment to learning are core Stony Brook principles we were thrilled to be a part of," she said.

The first interactive/panel session closed with Anne Walsh-Feeks, MS, PA (ASCP), FACHE, Assistant Dean and Chief Operating Officer for Ambulatory Services, Stony Brook Medicine, delivering a talk titled, Navigating the Leadership Labyrinth: Strategies for Women in Healthcare. Walsh-Feeks spoke about the unique challenges faced by women in the healthcare field.

Dr. Krajewski, Patricia Cooper, Ally Silver and Anne Walsh-Feeks
(left to right) Dr. Krajewski, Patricia Cooper, Ally Silver and Anne Walsh-Feeks

Cooper, Silver and Walsh-Feeks then participated in a Q&A session with the Summit attendees. This was followed by a coffee break where these discussions enthusiastically continued.

(left to right) Carolyn Santora, MS, RN, NEA-BC, CPHQ, Stella Tsirka, PhD, and Dr. Aroniadis
(left to right) Carolyn Santora, MS, RN, NEA-BC, CPHQ, Stella Tsirka, PhD, and Dr. Aroniadis



Second Panel Session

The second half of the Summit kicked off with Carolyn Santora, MS, RN, NEA-BC, CPHQ, Chief Nursing Officer, Chief of Regulatory Affairs, Stony Brook Medicine, delivering a lecture title, Leading with Authenticity: Embracing Your Unique Leadership Style. Santora spoke on the objective of leading with confidence while being true to yourself.

“It was an honor to participate in the First 'Women in Healthcare Leadership Summit,'" said Santora. "I hope that it inspired those who identify as women and their colleagues of all genders to continue to strive for equity in leadership. It is the richness of a balanced workforce, at all levels of an organization, that can move institutions to meet healthcare priorities and achieve a cohesive vision based on the values we acknowledge and promote."

Next was a talk titled, Strategic Career Planning for Women in Medical Leadership, presented by Stella Tsirka, PhD, Vice Dean for Faculty Affairs, Director, Scholars in Biomedical Sciences Program, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. Dr. Tsirka discussed how women can outline their medical careers to follow a path to a position of authority.

"The Summit gave the opportunity for people to get together, recognize the value of having diverse groups at all levels of the institution, and discuss ways to close existing gender gaps in medical and healthcare leadership," said Tsirka. "I was delighted to be part of it, and thank Dr. Krajewski for organizing it."

The closing speaker of the first Women in Healthcare Leadership Summit was Olga Aroniadis, MD, MSc, FACG, Chief, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Stony Brook University Hospital; Director, Masters of Epidemiology and Clinical Research, Program in Public Health, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. Dr. Aroniadis delivered a talk called, Balancing Act: Juggling Leadership and Personal Life in Healthcare. Focusing on work/life integration, she touched on her personal challenges of being a mother and a healthcare leader.

"The Women in Healthcare Leadership Summit was energizing and invigorating," said Dr. Aroniadis. "The event was filled with uplifting stories and tips on shattering the glass ceiling, leading with authenticity, mentorship and sponsorship, strategic planning, and harmonizing life and work. It was an honor to participate among a few of Stony Brook's phenomenal female leaders who have forged successful career paths and are invested in supporting all those around them. Congratulations to Dr. Krajewski for her extraordinary leadership planning this event."

Stella Tsirka, PhD, Dr. Aroniadis and Carolyn Santora
(left to right) Stella Tsirka, PhD, Dr. Aroniadis and Carolyn Santora

A final Q&A session continued discussions about unconscious bias, sexual harassment/bullying and overcoming barriers to advancement. Dr. Krajewski followed with her closing remarks in which she thanked all of the speakers and attendees for their participation, expressed a desire to make the Women in Healthcare Leadership Summit an annual event and urged Stony Brook's women in healthcare to strive for more diversity, equity and opportunities in executive-level positions.

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