By Gretchen Brophy, Diana Greene-Chandos, Marin Darsie, Holly Hinson, Elissa Fory, Nerissa Ko, Deepa Malaiyandi, Christa O’Hana S. Nobleza and Wendy Wright-Siegler
Women in Neurocritical Care (WINCC) has evolved over the years to be one of the most active sections of the Neurocritical Care Society (NCS). Here, we'll share the evolution of WINCC and give NCS members a glimpse of what’s to come.
In the late fall of 2002, an all-female group of fellows (Chere Chase-Gregory, Anise Ardelt, Connie Chen and Wendy Wright-Siegler) from Johns Hopkins started using the acronym WINCC, which stood for “Women in Neurocritical Care.” They started meeting once a week for dinner. These meetings became their way to decompress, “check-in” with each other especially if they encountered difficult cases or interactions and give support to each other.
Chere Chase-Gregory gifted her junior fellows a bracelet engraved with “WINCC” when she graduated. It was around that time that Anise Ardelt adopted a cat that became the first “unofficial” mascot of WINCC, named “Wincc.” They continued their weekly dinners until all but one of them relocated.
Several years later, Wendy Wright-Siegler and Gretchen Brophy discussed creating a committee focused on mentoring and supporting women NCS members, and the name “WINCC” resurfaced. Wendy’s idea at that time was to take the “basic elements that I benefited from via fellowship, comradery (mentoring via support, networking, idea sharing and education) and tapping into the available talent by drawing a wider circle.”
One of the early goals was for WINCC to avoid being exclusively for women members “but rather was meant for anyone interested in the advancement of women in the field, and in any issues regarding equity and diversity." This idea caught-on, and WINCC evolved into a formal section. As time progressed, several women leaders in NCS, supported WINCC, furthered its longevity. In 2017, WINCC sent its first invitations into the wider committee membership under Nerissa Ko and Susana Bowling as the first WINCC Chair and Co-Chair.
In 2018, under the leadership of Diana Greene-Chandos, WINCC held its first open election for the Co-Chair position, to open the door for anyone in the society wishing to step into a leadership role, and Deepa Malaiyandi was elected Co-Chair. In order to ensure that WINCC was serving the needs of the membership, the decision was made to survey our members on their priorities. Our subgroups were formed around these priorities, which included Families, Mentorship, Social Media/Communications, MINCCs for WINCCs and Research.
The Families group, led by Elissa Fory, envisioned increasing young faculty engagement and participation in the society and attendance at the Annual Meeting. With the support of NCS leadership, NCS had the first on-site, drop-off child-care in Vancouver in 2019 called the NCS Kids Space. The group also arranged the first Families Welcome Dinner, which was a wonderful way to connect their NCS family with their own.
The Social Media and Communications group, led by Kimberly Levasseur-Franklin, aimed to harness the power of social media to promote our initiatives. Early this year, we were approved for “#WINCC” on Twitter, and now Marin Darsie and Hana Nobleza are taking it to another level with a dedicated webpage under creation to support an even broader scope of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, highlight the accomplishments of its members, and hopefully entice an increasingly diverse next-generation to consider a career in neurocritical care.
The Mentorship group, under the leadership of Hana Nobleza, formed a collaboration with the Trainee Section to start a WINCC-specific mentorship program, which led to eight WINCC mentorship pairs in 2019. The WINCC speakers list was also created and has already been used by institutions, annual conference program committee chairs and individuals seeking to diversify their speakers, panelists and moderators.
Finally, the WINCC logo was created and as part of our outreach, our apparel is available for purchase.
One of the first Annual meeting activities that WINCC held was the luncheon learning and networking session. WINCC provided an opportunity for women in neurocritical care to have a venue for professional and personal enhancement and growth. WINCC has established several more programs since, including the Mentorship Mingle we co-host with the Trainee Committee, the annual Kids Space child care, the Family Welcome Dinner, the WINCC Annual Meeting keynote speaker and the wine and cheese mingle that follows. This year, we are honored that we will be coming full circle as Dr. Chere Chase-Gregory will be giving the 2020 WINCC keynote address.
Before looking forward, it is important to take a moment to recognize the many silent victories that the successful women of our society have won that helped shape workplaces and career opportunities for those of us who have followed in their immeasurable footsteps. To see that there are now closer to equal numbers of men and women neurointensivists in the early career group is truly inspiring and a testament to the sheer will and dedication of these trailblazers and the colleagues and mentors who believed in them, to whom we will always be grateful.
With all of the growth and development we have seen, WINCC is excited for the future. We will continue all of our current efforts but also add a Career Enhancement program to provide guidance, Curriculum Vitae reviews and letters of recommendation for promotion or other career-enhancing positions (FNCS, FCCM, etc.). Anticipate an increase in the presence of WINCC on Facebook and Twitter as well as the launch of a WINCC webpage to house all the group's projects and initiatives. WINCC will continue to be dedicated to advocating for broader diversity, equity and inclusion goals as our natural next step. As we continue to rise, we want to connect with anyone who still remains an untapped member of NCS to gain an appreciation of their needs and strengthen the partnerships necessary to meet them.
NCS is becoming increasingly aware of systemic impediments to equity in medicine and health care, particularly for women and people from under-represented backgrounds. Bridging the equity gap will require more than recognizing it exists — the concerted efforts of groups like WINCC and NCS leadership are necessary. We need to fix the system rather than focusing on how to fix the individual to succeed in a system not built for them. We all want NCS to continue to be an organization that leads by example when it comes to inclusivity. NCS is an organization that prioritizes, above all, meeting the needs of its members and the communities we serve. We know the best way to make strides toward this goal is by using our diversity as our strength and bring as many of us together as possible to shape a future for our field that we are all proud of.