EFA partners with Mitchigan State University and Inforum Women’s Alliance

By Heather Guidone

Endometriosis Foundation of America (EFA) co-founders Tamer Seckin and Padma Lakshmi joined scientist Professor Asgi Fazleabas and members of the Grand Rapids scientific community for a series of events focused on endometriosis awareness on 13-14 April 2011.

Live well …give back

Picture of Padma Lakshmi

Padma Lakshmi speaks at Inforum’s “Live Well…Give Back” Dinner

Presented by Michigan State University’s (MSU) Department of OB/GYN & Reproductive Biology and Inforum Professional Women’s Alliance, these important education and awareness efforts kicked off on 13 April with a dinner featuring a presentation by Padma Lakshmi entitled “Live Well…Give Back”.  She detailed her evolution from an international supermodel into the multi-faceted businesswoman she is today.

Inforum, one of the largest and most prestigious business forums in the nation, organised a festive VIP reception and dinner attended by more than 250 leaders from the medical, professional and scientific communities along with members of the public at the Amway Grand Plaza.

Padma Lakshmi shared how she turned her passions into her career and discussed how she finds time to continue giving back through her passionate work with the Foundation. Her engaging keynote speech was peppered with humor, personal anecdotes and encouraging advice on forging alliances and making connections that help accelerate lives:

“As a businesswoman, my work with EFA provides a way a way to give back. I feel I have a responsibility to pay my success forward by also informing women through my own experience,” she said.

A focus on endometriosis

Inforum’s “Live Well…Give Back” gala was followed on Thursday by the MSU College of Human Medicine’s women’s health symposium, “A Focus on Endometriosis”, hosted by Asgi Fazleabas, Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of OB/GYN & Reproductive Biology.

MSU’s Asgi Fazleabas with EFA co-founders Padma Lakshmi and Tamer Seckin

MSU is home to a $6.8 million NIH-funded Specialized Cooperative Centre Programme for Reproductive and Infertility Research, focused largely on translational studies regarding the aetiology and pathophysiology of endometriosis along with adenomyosis and endometrial and ovarian cancers. Under the leadership of Professor Fazleabas, the centre is leading the way in cutting-edge research in developing animal models and in vitro systems to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms that may be associated with the pathology of endometriosis and develop non-invasive diagnostic tests that are so desperately needed for the early diagnosis of the disease.

Women’s health as a research priority …and anger

Opening remarks from Marsha Rappley, Dean of MSU College of Medicine, and Richard Leach, Chairperson of the Department of OB/GYN & Reproductive Biology, emphasised the critical need to elevate women’s health as a research priority.

As the first speaker, Padma Lakshmi, said that she feels it is her mission to educate women about endometriosis, detailed her experiences from the first of her many surgeries – in which she never heard the word “endometriosis” – to finally receiving successful treatment and ultimately becoming a miracle mom.

Her heartfelt honesty provided insight to living with a painful, misunderstood disease and empowered several patients in the audience to lend their own voices to the discussion. Sharing personal experiences, a common theme emerged from those in the audience: anger.

  • Anger at not being diagnosed earlier
  • Anger at not being given effective treatment options
  • Anger at being largely ignored by the medical community.

EFA's Tamer Seckin and Heather Guidone with friends from Grand Rapids Women’s Health

One woman even related her significant frustration at having to suffer – perhaps needlessly – through ineffective therapies and the extensive collateral toll it took on her personal and professional life. The event was an unprecedented opportunity for patients and professionals alike to engage in meaningful dialogue concerning the disease and work in partnership on an agenda to improve the future of endometriosis.

Endometriosis surgery for multiple organ involvement

Following his co-founder Dr Tamer Seckin talked about “Endometriosis surgery for multiple organ involvement”. Educating the audience through a series of medical animations and surgical slides, Dr Seckin discussed the science of endometriosis from origin and pathogenesis to advanced surgical treatment through expert laparoendoscopic excision.

The day closed with presentations from Drs Grace Janik and Bruce Lessey, who presented “Surgical management for severe endometriosis” and “New concepts for the diagnosis of pain and infertility in minimal and mild endometriosis”, respectively, both sharing their laudable knowledge of the disease as it relates to pain, infertility and effective treatment.

The ensuing dialogue between the expert presenters and the audience increased awareness not only about the need for early diagnosis and gold standard treatment, but also lent several personal experiences to what is often thought of as an insignificant illness.  Yet, endometriosis affects an estimated 176 million women worldwide and, in the words of the day’s host, Professor Azleabas:

“It’s unfortunate that this disease is so prevalent, and we know very little about it…women typically endure the condition 8 to 11 years before it is diagnosed because they’re told it’s part of growing up”.

Moving science forward through collaboration

The gala and symposium were part of the EFA’s ongoing efforts to lead research and extensive collaborative efforts with scientists, women’s health professionals, patients and the public to further develop widespread knowledge of endometriosis and promote early diagnosis and effective intervention. The events were characterised by Padma Lakshmi as

“a way for us to get the word out to a large group of women who are movers and shakers…about a very important women’s issue”.

For more information

» Endometriosis Foundation of America (EFA)

Acknowledgments

Photographs by Mark Thomas Productions for the EFA

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