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GAIL WHITE Doctors' wives reach out to the community



Published: Fri, February 21, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Shelley Duffett stands at the podium calling the Tri-County Medical Association Alliance meeting to order.

"May I have your attention, please," she says in a soft voice. The chattering of women continues.

"Good afternoon," she says again a little louder, but still to no avail.

She smiles a kind and understanding smile and then says in her loudest voice, "Ladies, it is time to begin." She is assisted by several women, whose attention she has managed to reach, clanking the sides of their water glasses with their spoons.

Reluctantly, the room becomes quiet.

Part of Shelley's problem in calling the meeting to order is in her sweet, soft demeanor. Truly, however, a bullhorn may very likely be ignored by this group, the camaraderie is so great.

Once a year, doctors' wives from Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties come together in fellowship to share concerns and discuss ideas about their respective Medical Association Alliance activities.

Group's goal

"The goal for these women is to support the medical family," explains Theda Jessen, president of the Ohio State Medical Association Alliance and special guest at the Tri-County meeting. "We dedicate ourselves to the betterment of health for the people of Ohio."

Throughout the year, these women work with their respective county's Medical Alliance on philanthropic and legislative endeavors.

In Mahoning County, the president of the Medical Alliance chooses a foundation she wishes to support. All the proceeds from the various fund-raisers and raffles the group holds during the year goes to that foundation.

This year, Shelley has chosen the Touched By Nathan foundation. Nathan was a baby born medically fragile who left an impact on everyone he encountered in the 40 days of his life.

Touched By Nathan was founded by Nathan's doctor, Dr. Elena Rossi, a pediatric specialist dealing with medically fragile babies.

Shelley chose this foundation because, as a mother of three children, her heart goes out to the parents of these medically fragile babies.

Shelley is also very impressed with the work that Dr. Rossi does with these small little lives. "I admire her so much."

What money will provide

The money the Mahoning County Medical Alliance raises will help the Touched By Nathan foundation provide lodging and amenities for the parents of medically fragile children as well as medical equipment for the infants.

The Trumbull County Medical Alliance has a different approach for its philanthropic ventures.

"We do community education programs," explains Lucia Flevares, a past president of the Trumbull association.

The group has presented one-day conferences on the topics of drug and alcohol abuse, suicide and battered wives.

"This year, we are presenting an anti-bully program called 'Don't Laugh At Me," Lucia says.

Most of the funds for the conference will come from a comedy night event the group sponsors.

"We always had spring dances," Lucia says while smiling. "But a light went off in our heads one year -- doctors don't like to dance!"

It is information like this that the women share at their annual Tri-County meeting -- effective/ineffective fund-raising initiatives, legislative matters and health trends.

Of course, the social aspect also plays an important role.

"I always felt it was important to participate," says Lucia, who has been involved with the Trumbull Medical Association since 1968. "I like the camaraderie of being with other wives and sharing ideas."

"We have a lot of fun," Shelley says.

Then she takes a deep breath, rises and heads once again to the podium, hoping she can garner this lively group's attention once more.

"Your attention please ladies ..."

gwhite@vindy.com




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