Alumnae panel educates on gender disparities in healthcare


Claire Moore '22

Students, alumnae, and faculty gather to discuss female healthcare in conversation with COVID-19 concerns.

Sacred Heart Greenwich welcomed alumnae Dr. Helen W Boucher ‘82, Dr. Julen Harris ‘04, and Dr. Nicole Seagriff ‘03 to share their expertise in female and pediatric health with the school community.  Dr. Sten H. Vermund, Chief Medical Advisor of the Sacred Heart COVID-19 Special Committee, joined the alumnae to specifically discuss the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on women’s health issues.  Seniors Catriona Marangi and Megan Maloney moderated the panel and presented questions from both Upper School students and parents.  The presentation highlighted the importance of rectifying gender inequality in healthcare, especially in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.  

Dr. Boucher, Doctor of Medicine (MD), graduated from Sacred Heart in 1982 and studied English at College of the Holy Cross on the pre-med track.  She is currently the first female Dean at Tufts University School of Medicine and Chief Academic Officer of the Wellforce Health System.  Dr. Harris, MD, is an Adolescent Medicine Fellow at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.  Prior to holding this position, she served as an educator for health initiatives centered around female reproductive health, nutrition, and wellness.  Dr. Seagriff, MD, works as a Family Nurse Practitioner and the Clinical Program Director for The Weitzman Institute.  In addition to her professional endeavors, Dr. Seagriff engages in fundraising for breast cancer research and spreads awareness surrounding breast cancer risk as President of the Pink Agenda

All three alumnae cited their Sacred Heart education as a catalyst for their confident entry into the medical field.  Dr. Harris commented on how the values of Sacred Heart’s Goals and Criteria align with her daily healthcare practices. 

Left to right, Alumnae Dr. Nicole Seagriff ‘03, Dr. Julen Harris ‘04, and Dr. Helen W Boucher ‘82 present their knowledge on women’s health.  Claire Moore ’22

“The mission of Sacred Heart for service and compassion towards others and social justice is still really relevant to the way I practice medicine every day,” Dr. Harris said.  “Growing up at Sacred Heart, it did not seem like there was a glass ceiling for women to be engaged in any field we had passions for.”

Dr. Boucher spoke about the particular relevance of preventative healthcare measures for women.  She encouraged students to regularly attend checkups and prioritize primary care. 

“We have data that women, in many cases, do not receive the same level of care as men for certain diseases,” Dr. Boucher said.  “A big message for women is that preventative health care is important.  It is important to get your checkups, mammogram, colonoscopy, and to attend to your primary care.”

Considering women’s health in light of the coronavirus pandemic led to public concern about fertility issues arising from the COVID-19 vaccine.  Despite these anxieties, there is no evidence that coronavirus vaccines affect fertility or contribute to infertility, according to  Currently, clinical trials with an equal male-female ratio are examining potential differences in how COVID-19 manifests in men and women as well as the multi-faceted effects of vaccine administration.  Dr. Vermund explained how the equal gender quota in these trials is groundbreaking in the medical field.

“These very large clinical trials with tens of thousands of individuals were split about 50-50 between men and women,” Dr. Vermund said.  “This is not one of the many examples of where women’s health has been neglected in clinical trials.  We have abundant data on women.  In fact, because of blood clots seen in women, we are actually obtaining even more data in women than we are in men at the present time.  I think we are very confident that the safety and efficacy of the data in women are every bit as robust as in men.”  

Research shows that gender equality in the workplace remains a prevalent issue, according to  Cambridge University conducted a study on volubility and found that despite the perception that women are excessive talkers, men contribute to 75 percent of the talking in co-ed work environments, according to  In the medical field, women comprise 46 percent of residency slots.  However this percentage decreases further up the medical academic hierarchy as only 38 percent of faculty, 21 percent of full professors, and 16 percent of deans are female, according to  The overall trend of men holding a disproportionate share of key leadership roles remains.  

Catriona Marangi ’22 fuses her interests in public health and filmmaking into her role as panel moderator.  Claire Moore ’22

“The biggest challenge of being a woman in the medical field was making it in academia and having leadership opportunities,”  Dr. Boucher said.  “It is still true that, in 2021, there are very few women in leadership positions.  I have definitely inculcated at Sacred Heart that women are very qualified to hold these jobs and bring a unique value to the medical field.  I am working hard to make the world that you students come into a better place.”   

In light of gender disparities in healthcare and the continuation of the coronavirus pandemic, education and awareness about female health remain of the utmost importance.  Megan commented on how viewing male and female health as separate entities is an important step towards increased equity.

“When thinking about the relevance of female health, I am reminded of a quote I read for my science research project on female athlete health,” Megan said.  “It stated  ‘female athletes are not just male athletes adjusted for weight.’  As women, we have specific health needs.  I feel like so many women and girls do not know how to properly take care of their bodies because women’s health was stigmatized for so long.  Like the quote says, women are not just adjusted versions of men.  We have different physical, emotional, and mental needs.  Women should not have to deal with their health being stigmatized just because men are uncomfortable with it, and it is so important for women to understand that their needs may not be the same as men.”

Featured Image by Claire Moore ’22