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Human Rights Ambassador to Keynote Women's Health Conference (Released: 10/04/00)

Office of University Communications

STORRS, Conn. -- An international super-model who is now a human rights ambassador for the United Nations will be the featured speaker at a women's health conference on Oct. 19. Waris Dirie, who now campaigns for the safe treatment of children through her post in the U.N., will give a lecture titled, "Reach Out to the Children."

The conference, "Female Problems: Menopause, Sex and Cultural Conflicts," will take place at La Renaissance in East Windsor, from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Registration begins at 2:30 p.m. The conference is sponsored by the University of Connecticut School of Allied Health and CIGNA HealthCare of Connecticut.

"This year we wanted to include a look not only at local health issues but also at issues around the world," says Cynthia Adams, associate dean of allied health and organizer and founder of the annual women's health update. "Many women, as they age, become increasingly interested in what they can contribute to broader issues that affect women and children worldwide."

A native of Somalia, Dirie was born into a traditional family of desert nomads. At the age of five she was circumcised, a practice intended to guarantee that a young women will be a "virgin" when she gets married. Severe suffering and even death has occurred among young Somali girls, including Dirie's sister and cousin, as a result of this practice.

Dirie fled her homeland to escape an arranged marriage to a man her father's age. After walking across the desert alone5, she eventually came to London and the United States, where her beauty led to her distinction as a super-model. Her best-selling book, Desert Flower, chronicles her flight and her rise to super-model status.

The conference also includes two concurrent panels and a dinner talk.

"Laughter: Rx for Survival" will be the topic of a talk during dinner. Joyce Saltman, a professor of special education at Southern Connecticut State University, who is noted for her use of humor in her lectures, will be the speaker.

- Menopause, Breast Cancer and the Hormone Debate, features panelists Catherine Schairer, a National Institutes of Health fellow, who will discuss hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer risk; Jasminka Ilich-Ernst, an associate professor of allied health, who will discuss osteoporosis and its connection to hormone replacement therapy; Kristin Zarfos, assistant professor of surgery at the UConn Health Center, who will discuss breast cancer; and Julia Donovan, associate professor of ob/gyn oncology at Tufts University and Baystate Medical Center, who will discuss the benefits of hormone replacement therapy in cancer prevention. Kay Johnson-Keys, a consultant to the Department of Health Services in the area of maternal and child health, will serve as the panel's moderator.

- The panel on Human Rights and Sexua Practices includes Janelle Carroll, a member of the department of psychology at the University of Hartford, who will discuss healthy sex; Irene Cornish, superintendent of Chelsea Public Schools, who will speak on the rights of children; and Lori Waite, assistant professor of sociology at Trinity College, who will discuss forced sterilization of poor and minority women in the United States. The panel will be moderated by Ronnie Leavitt, an associate professor of physical therapy.

The fee for the conference is $45 per person, including dinner. CEUs are also available. To register, call Sally Fraley at (860) 486-4262 by Oct. 15.

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