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Women's Wellness through Equity and Leadership (WEL): Program Model, Evaluation Findings, and Lessons Learned


Michelle Y. Owens, MD, FACOG

Co-author Michelle Y. Owens, MD, FACOG

Maternal–fetal medicine specialist
ACOG representative on the WEL Steering Committee

In 2018, six leading U.S. medical organizations formed the Women’s Wellness through Equity and Leadership (WEL) Program with the aim of advancing equity in leadership opportunities and an inclusive health care workforce. A diverse group of women physicians came together for an 18-month program in networking and leadership training. The program aimed to foster individual development in its participants and infrastructural development within its partner organizations.

Participants reported improved confidence, knowledge, and leadership skills; for example, in negotiation and organizational change. They credited the WEL program as a catalyst for their own advocacy and for activities such as advancing equity principles in their workplaces, involvement with their medical organizations, and certain career-related steps. “I feel strongly that my work in WEL helped us advocate to create the very first District-level Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, which I’m now cochairing,” says Catherine Cansino, MD, FACOG.

The physicians identified key program components as particularly valuable. These included in-person meetings and webinars; peer support and networking opportunities across specialties; an emphasis on the interconnectedness of wellness, equity, and leadership; the individual and organizational lenses; the value of participant and faculty diversity and the curriculum emphasis on intersectionality; and the attention to applying relevant skills as women. They recommended that the program incorporate additional opportunities for mentorship, peer support, and relationship building.

The program outcomes reflect the power of organizations speaking in one voice, and of peer support, which offers opportunities rare in medicine to discuss professional challenges. They recommend that all organizations employing physicians provide support and opportunities for their women leaders to connect with other women physicians, including offering grants or sponsorships for programs designed to improve equity and inclusion.

Laurie C. Gregg, MD, FACOG, obstetrician–gynecologist (Sacramento, California), previously represented ACOG on the WEL Steering Committee.

Read More: ACOG Celebrates Women in Medicine Month

Source: Women in Medicine journal supplement, Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, September 2021.