Simmons: From Fossils to Women’s Health

Uncategorized Posted May 5, 2008 by chenpr

I had the pleasure of attending two of the sessions at the Simmons Leadership Conference.

Dr. Louise Leakey is a paleoanthropologist, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, a pilot, the mother of two and the head of the Koobi Fora Research Project at Lake Turkana, East Africa. She’s also the granddaughter of the renowned Louis Leakey, who through his tireless efforts with his wife Mary unearthed the secrets of our very beginnings in Africa. Louise and her family continue the quest and have found remains that date back 3 million years.

At the Simmons Leadership Conference, Dr. Leakey shared her passion for continuing to explore and discover the evolution of human ancestors, especially in the period between 2 million and 1.5 million years ago. The work done by her team is vital to finding answers to questions raised about human evolution. As she stated, “We are one species and we all came from the same place,” making the global conflicts over religion, race, ethnic backgrounds all the more absurd.

Dr. Leakey is involved in transforming the Koobi Fora Research Camp into a year-round research station at Lake Turkana to be run by Africans. She shared her concern that more Africans need to be educated and to take ownership for the care of their country in the future – the time to invest in Africa is now as there is an incredible “brain drain” out of the country.


Dr. Nancy Snyderman is the chief medical editor for NBC News, a staff member of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology (surgical and medical specialty concentrating on disorders and diseases involving the head and neck) at the University of Pennsylvania and the mother of three. An engaging speaker, Dr. Snyderman spoke about women needing to take charge of their health and well-being for their own good and for the good of their families. Pointing out that women are usually the last ones to worry about their own health as family caregivers, Dr. Snyderman peppered her talk with humorous stories about growing up as the daughter of a surgeon in Indiana.

With her mother as a role model (a common theme for many of the speakers), she stressed how important a life balance can be to staying healthy. As an example, she shared a story about having lunch with Julia Child in Paris (we all love Julia). At lunch when asked if she wanted white or red wine, Julia said, “Why can’t we have both?”

Julia’s approach to life was everything in moderation, and be open to new experiences. Stress and an unbalanced life can make us sick and Dr. Snyderman advocated good health practices, including exercise, regular check ups and healthy life balances as a way to “live life between the 40 yard lines.”