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  March 4, 2002

New Health Initiative to Celebrate Women

Diane Bennett knows how to reach busy women.

Bennett recently joined the Health Center as director of women's health programs. Previously, she worked at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, where she developed a 9,000-strong women's organization called "Spirit of Women." Women in this network received a quarterly newsletter about health and education programs offered through the program at Baystate, as well as a discount program offered through partnerships with local benefits. Membership was free and the benefits were rich.

Timely Information
"All women had to do was register - at no cost - and we sent them a wealth of information," she explains.

At the Health Center, Bennett will build a new program, mirroring the Spirit of Women campaign. Under a new name, possibly "Celebrate Women" (a copyright investigation is pending), Bennett will again create a membership program and send participants information on a regular basis. This time, however, the focus will be on Health Center services and caregivers. Members will learn about clinical programs at the Health Center, find out about free lectures and Discovery Series programs, and get to know some of the leading women's health experts at UConn.

To launch this program, Bennett is working closely with Kristen Zarfos, an assistant professor of surgery and medical director of the women's health program.

"We feel confident that the more women know about the range of services provided at the Health Center, the more likely they will be to come here for all their health needs," Dr. Zarfos says.

For the past year, Zarfos has led a women's health committee that has worked to streamline and promote women's health research, clinical services, and educational programs for the medical community and the lay public. For example, physicians on the committee presented two very popular "Women's Night Out" Discovery Series programs in April and December 2001. Before capacity crowds in Keller Auditorium topics specific to women were discussed by Jane Grant-Kels, chair of dermatology; Christine LaSala, director of the division of urogynecology; Jo-Anne Smith and Pam Taxel of endocrinology; and Zarfos.

As the committee began to explore new ways of reaching women patients, Zarfos heard about Bennett's innovative program at Baystate and scheduled a meeting to learn more.

"From our first meeting, I knew she had the energy, enthusiasm and know-how to help us start a similar program at the Health Center," Zarfos says. "We're thrilled she decided to join us."

For her part, Bennett said she was ready for a new challenge. "We grew the Baystate program from zero to 9,000 members in three years. It was a wonderful and gratifying experience - and I'm ready to do it again," she says.

Some of her first tasks will include inaugurating the program's name and logo; creating eye-catching registration forms for the public; and finding new ways to introduce Health Center services to Connecticut women.

"The new women's health program supports many of our signature programs, including cancer care, osteoporosis services, and clinical research. This initiative will also help the Health Center fulfill its mission to educate the public about new developments in women's health care," says Peter J. Deckers, executive vice president for health affairs.

Some of the clinical services that fall under the women's health umbrella, as well as Bennett's office, will be housed on the main floor of John Dempsey Hospital, in the former Call Center area. This area has been named the Charlotte Johnson Hollfelder Center for women's health, in memory of a breast cancer survivor and close friend of the Health Center, who died of an unrelated illness in 1996.

Other services will continue to be offered throughout the campus, in the hospital and Dowling South building. Plans to consolidate all women's health services are under discussion but, for now, it will remain "a program without walls," Bennett explains.

Expertise and Compassion
"The real selling point about this program is the level of expertise, compassion and skill our providers offer their patients. That's what women are looking for in health

care today. And that's what I'll be telling women about at every possible opportunity," she says.

In addition to her successful experience with Baystate's Spirit of Women, Bennett brings to the Health Center more than 30 years' experience in various facets of health care administration. She previously served as program manager of the trauma and wound care program at Baystate and was administrative coordinator for the department of surgery at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford.

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