Women's Symposium adds to attendees' health knowledge

About 200 women attending UT Southwestern's 2005 Annual Women's Symposium learned how to recognize signs of depression, how to help someone caring for a sick relative and how emergency departments serve the community.

Those were among the topics discussed by UT Southwestern physicians at the Feb. 8 "A Day for Women's Health" event, sponsored by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Belmont Wealth Management.

"Depression can happen to anyone but is more common in women," Dr. Celia Jenkins, associate professor of psychiatry and medical director of the consult-liaison psychiatry and behavioral medicine service, told the attendees during her talk, "Depression Hits All Ages."

"If you suspect that a loved one is depressed, express your concerns but avoid being judgmental or giving advice," she said. "And remember: Family and friends are helpful but are not a substitute for mental health treatment."

When a loved one is depressed, he or she may show less interest in everyday life or pleasurable activities, lose sleep, be restless, suffer from impaired concentration and feel guilty or worthlessness. Tearfulness, loss of libido, feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, anxiety and impaired functioning at work, school or home could also be symptoms.

Those caring for a loved one who is seriously ill have an incredibly challenging and demanding job, and often friends and family don't know what they should do to help, Dr. Elizabeth Paulk, assistant professor of internal medicine and medical director of the palliative care team at UT Southwestern and Parkland Health & Hospital System, said dur-ing her presentation, "Caring for the Caregiver."

"Caregivers need your help," she said. "If you don't know what to say, just be there and do something Ð good intentions don't count. Serious illness brings many problems, but it also provides opportunities for closeness and emotional and spiritual growth."

Frequently, Dr. Paulk said, caregivers need help with daily activities - things like grocery shopping, household chores and errands, and transportation to the doctor's office. Some of the best gestures include asking how you can help, being specific with your offer and asking how the caregiver is holding up every once in a while.

In her talk "How to Be Panic-Proof in an Emergency," Dr. Kathleen Delaney, the vice chairman of emergency medicine and professor of surgery and internal medicine, discussed ways that emergency department professionals serve the community.

In addition to treating trauma, she pointed out that she and her Parkland colleagues care for and counsel rape victims; provide emergency psychiatric services or social work assistance; give drug and alcohol counseling; handle domestic violence cases; and offer a last resort to poor and uninsured patients.

"In many ways, the emergency physician is like a traffic cop, directing patients so everyone gets the most appropriate care as quickly as possible," said Dr. Delaney, medical director of Parkland Memorial Hospital's Emergency Department.

"We work hard to provide quality care to individuals, the public and the community. We are truly the community's safety net."

She also discussed dangers in the home that could lead to a trip to the emergency department. For children, the biggest dangers are poisonings from medications, household cleaners, automotive fluids and insecticides.

This year's event, designated "Be a Know-It-All: The Passport to Life's Challenges," was chaired by Leslie el-Effendi, with Ruth Altshuler serving as honorary chair. Steering committee members include Carolyn Horchow, Melissa Macatee, Nancy Perot Mulford, Patricia Patterson, Lizzie Routman, Diana Strauss and Barbara Stuart.

UT Southwestern, Southwestern Medical Foundation and St. Paul Foundation hosted the symposium. Dr. Susan Cox, associate dean for professional education and professor of obstetrics and gynecology, was the program director.