On Friday, June 10, 2022, the International Women's and Children's Health and Gender (InWomen's) Group, chaired by RTI Global Gender Center Director Dr. Wendee Wechsberg, hosted their 14th conference. The InWomen’s Conference is a multidisciplinary forum held in conjunction with CPDD to address varying issues of substance use among women, children, and LGBTQIA+ individuals with respect to gender differences. This year, the InWomen’s Conference utilized a hybrid format with events held both in-person at the Hilton Minneapolis in Minneapolis, Minnesota and streamed virtually. Throughout the day, 16 countries were represented by works at this truly global conference. Along with several RTI Global Gender Center affiliates serving as organizers for this year’s conference, many affiliates moderated panels throughout the day and presented RTI GGC-affiliated research during the poster sessions.
The theme for this year’s conference was “Facing Our Challenges and Keeping Our Commitment in the Field of Gender and Substance Use.” Dr. Wechsberg opened the conference by asking attendees to reflect on the significance of the conference’s location. Being just blocks away from where George Floyd was murdered, participants were prompted to consider issues of racism, discrimination, violence, and other intersectional burdens that women and sexual and gender minority populations regularly face.
Following the opening remarks, Teagan Carr – a non-traditional medical student, activist, and artist – performed a rousing original poem. Special Guest Dr. Tetiana Kiriazova, the Former Director of the Ukrainian Institute on Public Health Policy, was then welcomed to present on the first 100 days of Russia’s war against Ukraine. She shared about the gallant work of health care providers and public researchers who persist despite bombings, barricades, a lack of water, cut-off electricity, and other hardships. The crowd showed how strongly they were impacted by this presentation when they gave Dr. Kiriazova a standing ovation.
Dr. Vasundhara Varthakavi (Kavi), the Associate Director of the HIV Research Program at the National Institute on Drug Abuse of NIH, moderated the first panel session, which covered the intersections of substance use, stigma, harm reduction, criminal justice, violence, and drug trafficking. These presentations spanned the globe with primary locations of research including Vancouver, New York City, and Kenya. Panelists Andrea Krüsi, PhD; Dawn Goddard-Eckrich, EdD, MSS; and Bernice Apondi, MA provided their insights through their thought-provoking presentations and responses in the panel Q&A.
The second panel was moderated by Dr. Courtney Peasant Bonner, Senior Research Clinical Psychologist in RTI’s Substance Use, Gender, and Applied Research Program. This session focused on both domestic and global gender-focused approaches to substance use treatment and prevention interventions. Panelists included Vu Thi Tuong Vi, MPH; Josephine Korchmaros, PhD; and Lianne A. Urada, PhD, MSW, LCSW.
In between the panel sessions, nearly 40 posters were displayed in virtual and in-person formats. Each poster contained a gender and substance use component, but the primary focuses ranged from basic science to policy and treatment to implementation science.
During a midday break, in-person attendees were eager to network and reconnect with this being the first time that many colleagues and friends have had the chance to be with one another in-person again since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the networking break, Dr. Yukiko Washio, Senior Research Psychologist in RTI’s Substance Use, Gender, and Applied Research Program, moderated a panel session that focused on substance use while pregnant. Panel members included Julie Stinson, MA; Dennis Hand, PhD; Chuan-Yu Chen, PhD; Lindsay Wolfson, MPH; and Dianne Clarke, PhD, CAP. Dr. Clarke rounded out the panel session by taking a step away from a traditional research presentation. She challenged attendees to consider why it’s important to resist reverting back to treatment the way it was pre-COVID 19 and instead push towards a “new normal.”
Dr. Felicia Browne, Senior Research Social Epidemiologist in RTI’s Substance Use, Gender Program, moderated the day’s final panel session, which included presentations on activism and approaches for female empowerment, provider-based trainings for transgender clients, collaboration among community-based organizations, and a story about translating a personal experience with addiction to a career in recovery science. Panelists included Joana Canêdo, MA; Pavla Dolezalova, PhD; Ashley Simons-Rudolph, PhD; and Deni Carise, PhD.
The collaborative atmosphere at InWomen’s motivated attendees to continue their research and advocacy efforts with broadened perspectives and an expanded network of supportive feminist professionals.