Third Annual Women + Wellness

by Catherine Macallister

“Did we empower you? Do you have new information that you can make better decisions?” asks Melanie Sabelhaus, one of the co-founders, and cochairs to the guests of the 2018 Women+Wellness event. Her questions, met with thunderous applause, show that it is clear the second annual event was a success: a hope for this year as well.

Heading into its third summer, Women+ Wellness aims to provide a comprehensive look at ways that women can control their health and handle the unexpected. The Nantucket Cottage Hospital and its affiliate Massachusetts General Hospital will be presenting this year’s seminar at The Dreamland on Monday, July 22 from 4:30 to 7pm. Attendees can expect two presenters to share on important topics: “What You Need to Know: Women’s Stroke and Telemedicine” and “Living with Serious Illness.” The committee is “very excited to be at Dreamland,” its new venue for the 2019 event. Meryl Bralower, co-founder and chair of 2019 Women+Wellness explained that they have “honed the event…chosen speakers that can appeal to a wide variety of audiences.” Guests will enjoy the audio and visual aspects of this year’s presentation and the fact that the presenters will be visible to everyone. Additionally, attendees can meet with the guest lecturers as well as Nantucket physicians after the lecture in the Harborview Room for passed hors d’oeuvres and wine.

Meryl Bralower, Jeanine Borthwick, and Melanie Sabelhaus were inspired to start Women+ Wellness in 2017 because they were “motivated to help with effective decision making and provide up-to-the-minute decisions” regarding healthcare. They also wanted to highlight the importance of Nantucket Cottage Hospital’s affiliation with Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) by providing access to doctors from MGH who could help to create “interesting programs…that are a little more in depth” with the hope that attendees would receive “more information for healthcare decisions” says Bralower. “We want a lot of community participation,” says Bralower, a longtime summer resident who has worked hard with the host committee to ensure that this event can be enjoyed by all Nantucket residents.

“They are both outstanding,” says Bralower, commenting on the abilities of the two lecturers who will be leading this year’s event. Guest lecturer, Dr. Lee H. Schwamm is the Executive Vice Chairman of the Department of Neurology at MGH and the Director of the MGH Comprehensive Stroke Center and Director of the MGH Center for TeleHealth. He will focus on the importance of telehealth, which enables the Nantucket Hospital Emergency Department to communicate through telemedicine technology with an MGH doctor to determine the next best steps. Guests will learn how crucial telemedical technology is in situations like having a stroke, especially when medical transport may not be immediately available due to weather-related issues. There will also be an opportunity to hear from the Director of the NCH Emergency Department, Faith Frable, who will follow Dr. Schwamm with a few minutes of commentary.

Dr. Vicki Jackson, Chief of the Division of Palliative Care at MGH and the second lecturer, will be covering “Living with Serious Illness,” an in depth look at the difference between palliative care and hospice. For many, this topic can be difficult, but the importance of understanding how palliative care can increase the quality and length of life will help those suffering from chronic or serious illness to understand how they can lead the best life. “It’s about living” says Bralower, hoping that the talk led by Jackson will illuminate audiences on the differences. Like Dr. Schwamm, Dr. Jackson will be followed by a commentary by Nantucket’s own Program Director and Nurse Practitioner of Palliative and Support Care of Nantucket, Dianne Bein, who will comment on Nantucket’s relationship to palliative care.

“It doesn’t have to be you” says Bralower, highlighting the importance of attending this event, “it can be your husband, wife, mother, sibling.” Knowing what to do in an emergency situation and preparing for health situations at any age is important to being proactive in taking control of your health. With so many discussions about broader topics like stroke care, chronic illnesses and telemedicine, it seemed important that this year’s event be a littler bit different and “not limited,” meaning that wives are encouraged to bring their spouses or family members so that everyone in the household will understand how something like a stroke, may be different for a woman than it is for a man. “Women are the decision makers,” says Bralower, and this year’s event aims to educate everyone so that informed healthcare decisions can be made.

The event costs $75 a ticket, with the option of paying it forward by purchasing an “Angel” ticket: a ticket that will be given to someone who cannot afford to attend. The biggest change that comes for the event this year is its move to become more of a fundraiser. Business sponsorships are encouraged and available at many different levels. Through fundraising and sponsorships, Women + Wellness is hoping to raise enough money to install a “Healing Labyrinth,” a garden that serves to provide a few moments of peace and serenity for patients at the hospital. It is a way for Women+Wellness to become a “concrete part of the new hospital,” a connection that remains at the heart of their mission as they endeavor to highlight the importance of the association between MGH and NCH, bringing “the best and brightest to our little island,” says Bralower. The evolution of Women and Wellness over the last few years has been tremendous and as they continue to grow we hope that they continue to share their passion for informed healthcare and healthcare decisions with all Nantucket residents.

Women+Wellness will be held in The Dreamland on Monday, July 22. To purchase tickets, visit nantuckethospital.org/womenandwellness.