My advice is to speak up, be respectful but don’t suffer in silence. My last advice to women: be yourself.

Beatrice Ugiliweneza, PhD, MSPH, Associate Professor, Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center

HEN is proud to celebrate Women’s History Month by highlighting a healthcare leader in our region who has positively influenced and enriched our community. The Women’s History Month 2022 theme, Providing Healing, Promoting Hope,” is both a tribute to the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during this ongoing pandemic and also a recognition of the thousands of ways that women of all cultures have provided both healing and hope throughout history. 

We talked to Beatrice Ugiliweneza, PhD, MSPH, Associate Professor, Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, about projects she’s most excited about, her proudest accomplishment and advice she has for young women starting out in the healthcare industry. Highlights are below.

What do you do on a daily basis at UofL Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center?

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery (DNS). I am mainly in the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC) which is within the department of Neurosurgery at the University of Louisville. My main role is to provide quantitative methodology support to my colleagues in their clinical research project in the processes of design, analysis, and dissemination. I also teach and provide services at the University and other national organizations.

What initiatives are you most proud of?

I jumpstarted the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) discussions and committee in DNS and KSCIRC at the University of Louisville. I led the committee for the first year and am now a member. I am proud of what we have accomplished in the committee and I am proud of the progress that we have made as a department and center.

The theme for 2022 is “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” How does your team at UofL work to provide healing and hope to the people in our community?

We work with people who have spinal cord injury, so healing and hope is hardwired in our core structures and endeavors. In the broad scheme, following the civil unrest of 2020, alongside the country and humanity, at KSCIRC, we have reflected on ourselves and have put in place structures that hold people accountable for their mistreatment actions. It is a long journey, we are in the infancy stages of reaching out to the community, but we are headed in the right direction.

Advice for other women who want to excel in the healthcare industry?

In order to excel in healthcare, you have to be passionate, resilient, and perseverant. Unfortunately, there is still sexism in 2022. It is more subtle, nuanced, and most times sub-conscient. However, the effect is still the same. My advice is to speak up, be respectful but don’t suffer in silence. My last advice to women: be yourself.

Who inspires you?

My mother is my greatest inspiration. There are a lot of people who built on what she did but without her, I would not be who I am today. She was widowed at 34, with 4 children, in a foreign land as a refugee, with no job and no money. We all finished college and went on to have successful careers. She was perseverant, she gave us everything and more.

Where do you trace your roots of your success?

I trace my root of success in the culture of hard work and humility ingrained into me by my parents. I was taught and shown from a young age that hard work is essential in life. On the other hand, great emphasis was placed on being a good person, carrying, compassionate and humble. Together, hard work and humility are ingredients for success.

How can Louisville continue to empower and develop women leaders?

To be empowered, women leaders and all women need to be provided with support. We have seen and it has been reported that, in the pandemic, women’s careers were negatively affected because gender inequality still exists, unfortunately. A lot of household and childcare responsibilities still fall on their shoulders. This was eye opening, and an opportunity to rethink equity policy for women, providing them with understanding, support, and flexibility. With this in place, women will soar.