Victoria J. Fraser, MD, head of the Department of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine, was a featured speaker at TEDxStLouisWomen, an event that celebrated the impact women have in St. Louis and around the world.
The event, which took place Thursday, May 28, at Union Station in downtown St. Louis, was associated with TED, a nonprofit conference series devoted to spreading ideas, typically via short, powerful talks. The presentations also were part of TEDWomen, a national three-day conference focused on women and girls as creators and change-makers. The theme this year was momentum and bold ideas that lead to progress.
Fraser, a specialist in infectious diseases, spoke about antibiotic resistance and its evolution into a public health crisis. Emphasizing the importance of antibiotics, she began by telling how two doses of newly developed penicillin saved her father’s life after he had developed severe pneumonia during World War II.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for antibiotics,” she said.
She went on to describe how antibiotic resistance develops and how fast the problem is spreading in the general population. “Antibiotic resistance is a huge storm, and it’s in our backyard,” she told a gathering of about 650 people.
Offering an example, Fraser said urinary tract infections, conditions that plague women in particular, have become exceedingly hard to treat as the microbes that cause the infections now resist most common antibiotics. Fraser, who is also physician in chief at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, has seen many cases that require broader spectrum antibiotics, which she noted can put patients at greater risk of developing other drug-resistant infections, such as severe diarrhea caused by the bacterium C. difficile.
With a nod to talk show host David Letterman’s recent departure from late-night television, Fraser ended her presentation by outlining the “Top Ten Things You Can Do” to prevent antibiotic resistance. Among them, she advised, don’t insist on antibiotics if your doctor says you don’t need them (for example, if you have a cold, which is usually spread by viruses and won’t respond to antibiotics); keep up to date on vaccinations; and wash your hands.
Joining Fraser were a number of other high-profile speakers, including:
- Ginger Hardage, Southwest Airlines senior vice president for culture and communications
- Elizabeth Reede, co-founder of Woofbert Inc., an immersive arts education technology
- Jade Simmons, concert pianist
- Evy Poumpouras, former U.S. Secret Service agent
- Kristen Hadeed, founder of Student Maid, a cleaning service that employs students
- Adrianne Haslet-Davis, Boston Marathon bombing survivor and dancer
- Khalia Collier, owner of the St. Louis Surge women’s professional basketball team
For more information and to view the talk visit the TEDxStLouisWomen site.