Packed House for Harbin Clinic’s Inaugural Women’s Leadership Conference

On Friday, July 25, hundreds of women from across northwest Georgia packed the DeSoto Theatre in downtown Rome for an exciting morning of inspirational speakers, informative panels and networking opportunities.

Gretchen Corbin, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, kicked off the event with a thought-provoking keynote address about life, management and leadership skills that form the foundation for success. She encouraged attendees not to be afraid of taking big risks in order to reap big rewards and highlighted the importance of preparing the next generation for a global economy.

Following Commissioner Corbin’s opening address, Anne Kaiser, Vice President of NW Region Operations at Georgia Power, shared her insight on establishing core values for personal and professional happiness. She advised attendees that the single best tool to help them succeed in business and life is confidence, and she stressed the importance of taking emotions out of tough situations to focus on what’s really important and make the right decision.

Gal Talk panel with Harbin physiciansThe first panel discussion at Gal Talk 2014 featured three Harbin Clinic physicians – Dr. Melissa Dillmon, Dr. Archana Koganti, and Dr. Diana Vallecilla – who addressed a variety of pertinent health and wellness topics for women.

Dr. Dillmon, oncologist at Harbin Clinic, focused on the importance of taking time to care for oneself and the potential pitfalls of not doing so. She recommended getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, and focusing on mindful breathing for fighting symptoms of fatigue.

Harbin Clinic neurologist Dr. Koganti shared effective strategies for combating stress amid today’s hectic way of life, which included relaxation and meditation techniques. She led the audience in several exercises to reduce tension and stress – from practicing purposeful breathing to relaxing the body one muscle group at a time.

Dr. Vallecilla, OB/GYN at Harbin Clinic, shared her personal experience with overcoming significant cultural obstacles to get to where she is today. She encouraged attendees to reach for their dreams, reassuring them that it’s okay to fall down as long as they get back up and keep going. She also advised that no matter what women choose to do in life, they should commit to being good at it.

Following the health and wellness panel, Evie McNiece, owner of Accounting Solutions Plus and former mayor of Rome, addressed the importance of being financially savvy, sharing the top financial goals for women at different life stages. She advised attendees to establish a budget and carefully differentiate between their needs, wants and dreams. She also recommended saving 10 percent of one’s salary for an emergency fund.

The second panel of the morning focused on preparing for the future and featured Dr. Robersteen Howard, Harbin Clinic pediatrician; Bettyann O’Neill, Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Berry College; and Cynde Reneau, Instructional Technology Coordinator at Darlington School.

Dr. Howard kicked off the conversation with a discussion about teaching children healthy habits so they can grow up to be healthy and successful adults. She shared that obesity is the most common chronic childhood disease, perpetuated by the fact that only 8 percent of elementary schools today meet the 150-hour physical education requirement set forth by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

Cynde Reneau from Darlington School then discussed the importance of digital citizenship for youth, anchored by a strong recommendation for parents to teach children a balance between engaging in social media and participating in other activities. She also highlighted the pervasiveness of cyberbullying and the damaging effects that can result. She encouraged everyone to teach children empathy when using social media to help prevent bullying and ensure that social media is used for more positive reasons, such as an outlet for self-expression.

Finally, Bettyann O’Neill from Berry College urged attendees to help encourage young girls to think big and dream beyond their current circumstances. She expressed the importance of helping young women discern what their talents and passions are and encourage them to follow through to success. She also challenged attendees to be good role models and leave a legacy for tomorrow by touching a life today.

The final speaker of the day was Representative Katie Dempsey who addressed how to succeed in a male-dominated world. She asserted that women need to have unshakeable integrity and always tell the truth, be the truth and live the truth – and do what's right even when no one is looking. Additionally, she encouraged women to continue thinking and leading with their hearts, as it’s always the right time to do the right thing.

See more photo highlights of the event