This month, we mourn the loss of one of the luminary giants in women’s leadership and gender equity – Lynn Yeakel, Director of Drexel University College of Medicine’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership (IWHL).
I first met Lynn around 2007-2008 during my visits to the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) Archives. As then Archives Chair of AMWA, I worried about the fate of our materials as they had been moved more than once during internal restructuring of the institution, not to mention changes in ownership from what had been the Medical College of Pennsylvania. But I need not have been concerned. Lynn had a vision – and a plan. And she understood the importance of legacy. Under her leadership, a new building was being built that would house not only the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership but also the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine® (ELAM) program, medical student simulation labs, and most importantly for us, the Legacy Center Archives which included the AMWA archives. The archives would be held in state-of-the-art accommodations within the basement of the building. Symbolically, the legacy of the past would be the foundation upon which programs would be built to promote women’s present and future leadership.
Lynn led the ambitious fundraising efforts for the new building, and when I proposed to her the idea that AMWA might support those fund-raising efforts for the opportunity to showcase our shared legacy in a lobby exhibit, she enthusiastically welcomed the proposal. And so began what would be a long-term collaboration that would span the full decade of Vision 2020, a national women’s equality coalition founded by Lynn and established within the IWHL in 2009. Within this network we worked together across sectors for over a decade to advance leadership, gender equity, and allyship. AMWA was honored to be a founding partner for Vision 2020, and I was privileged to participate in each of the Congresses that would be held, leading up to the virtual Congress in 2021.
Lynn was larger than life. She was a leader of leaders, yet she also had the gift of making each individual feel important, no matter who they were, from the young Girl Scout to the high ranking government official. When I think of the phrase “making mountains move,” I think of Lynn. Working with her inspired me to dream bigger, climb higher, and believe in the possibility of what might be, even if no one else could see the dream. As I reflect on AMWA’s growth and expansion throughout these years of collaboration with Lynn, I’m beginning to understand the breadth of her influence and the impact of her visionary leadership in a way that I never have before.
With deep gratitude and sorrow –
Eliza Lo Chin, MD, MPH
American Medical Women’s Association