Interactive event aims to demystify women’s health

By Maureen McMullen

Prioritizing one’s health can be difficult for any college student, but for women pursuing a degree, the task can be especially hard to tackle. Between studying, work and maintaining a social life, women in college often struggle with self-care.

“I think when you’re in college you’re just so focused on your studies and all these other things and other times, especially for women, you put yourself last as far as health,” said Jayne Gust, a Sanford Health public affairs specialist for women’s and children’s services. “It’s an instrumental time in a college woman’s life to take a look at your health and how important that is.”

Recognizing the health hurtles women in college face, Sanford partnered with Dragon Athletics and Hendrix to organize Women’s Health 101: What College Women Need to Know, an interactive event geared towards providing women at MSUM with the information they need to take control of their well-being.Scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 6:30 at Gaede Stage, the event will begin with 15-minute presentations from healthcare professionals, followed by a panel discussion.

“We feel like there is a group of women who are just starting out with their path as far as focusing on a career and adulthood as far as college, but along with that, health is a big topic,” Gust said.

Topics for the event were selected last spring  with the help of a focus group of MSUM students, who indicated that they were most interested in learning more about self-advocacy, safe sex and birth control, eating right on a budget, mental health and sexual violence.

“We want to help in the ways that people are wanting,” Gust said. “It’s going to be a really light-hearted night, real casual. Sometimes when you think about talking to a physician it would be really stuffy, but we’re going to have it be really casual, fun and interactive.”

The event will also feature an “ask-it basket” for questions about topics that are harder to address, such as sexual wellness.

“We’ll pass out pieces of paper so they can ask questions they may not feel comfortable asking,” said Lynn Peterson, coordinator for sexual assault services and wellness education at Hendrix Health. “We’ll have lots of questions and they can put them in the basket, and as we draw them out, the panel will talk about each one of those questions.”

Attendees are encouraged not to be bashful about the anonymous questions they submit.

“I don’t think there are any questions that are out of bounds,” Peterson said. “One of the things I’ve been asked is how do you get a NuvaRing out of you? What do I do if it falls out of me and it touches the floor? Or, I’ve heard that the pill makes you gain weight, are there any other options?”

Though all students are welcome to the event, Peterson said the event will focus on women’s health, emphasizing that the health concerns women face can be especially intimidating as they enter adulthood.

“This is the age group a lot of the times where you’re having your first pap smear, and they have no idea what it is, or what are the tools they use or what they’re looking for,” Peterson said. “It will help prepare them to be health care consumers in the future; it’s kind of about learning how to navigate the health care system and learning what you need to do to be taking care of myself in the future as well.”

Peterson has worked at Hendrix Health for 15 years, and previously worked at the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center in Fargo. As one of the speakers, Peterson will give a presentation outlining the resources available on campus to survivors of sexual violence.

Other presenters and panelists will include Hendrix staff such as dietician Janet Brown, nurse practitioner Sheryl Olson, and counselor Miracle Hoff, as well as an OBGYN from Sanford.

Along with participating in a candid approach to women’s health, attendees will be eligible to score some swag including Family Fare supermarket and Dragon gear in a drawing at the end of the night.

“You can learn how to take better care of yourself or learn about things as a young woman, to make choices for your life and learn what your choices are in life and take better care of yourself,” said Gloria Riopelle, assistant director of external affairs for Dragon Athletics. “We’re all so busy, so we should all take time to learn how to be healthy.”

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