Women's Leadership Development Program

“I love this. In medical school, I never had a space to share this kind of openness and experience.”

Megan Furnari, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of pediatrics, director of medical student wellness and leadership, OHSU School of Medicine; WLDP co-founder


The mission of the WLDP is to empowerengage, and support the full potential of women‑identified medical students through leadership skill development, bi‑directional mentorship, affirmation of personal identity and strength, and community building.

The Women’s Leadership Development Program (WLDP) was founded in 2015 by Dr. Megan Furnari and a small group of inspired women medical students - Kelsey Priest, Angela Steichen and Ali Pincus - committed to improving the healthcare journey for women trainees.

Since the creation of the program, we have accepted 75 incredible women medical student scholars from a competitive applicant pool spanning all four class years.

First-year WLDP women participate in approximately 10 sessions led by invited OHSU faculty and expert speakers on topics that emphasize our core pillars: leadership, community, mentorship and wellness.

Second-year WLDP women mentor and facilitate the program for new members if they desire to continue in the curriculum.

Third- and fourth-year women have opportunities to join in large community events, mentor younger women in the program, attend conferences and participate in a narrative elective held annually in November.

WLDP supports a much-needed strategy for women in medicine to speak their truth, participate in class and medical school programs as leaders, and affirm the value of personal and collective narrative as women healers.

Since WLDP began, women participants are running and being elected to student council positions, leading student organizations, receiving awards, and getting scholarships. WLDP is a critical lift‑off point for OHSU women student leaders to take risks, achieve successes, and see their impact from early on in their medical training.

WLDP consists of monthly interactive lectures taught by expert women leaders from the OHSU faculty. The curriculum focuses on critical conversations empowering trainees to become current and future leaders in healthcare. There are four core areas:

  • Leadership skill development
  • Community building
  • Mentorship
  • Wellness training

Community building and mentorship

  • The history of women in medicine and the value of the collective story sharing about women's journeys into medicine with Laura Zeigen, M.P.H., M.L.I.S., liaison librarian and assistant professor, OHSU School of Medicine
  • The importance of raising all women up together
  • National conference abstract preparation and presentation with faculty members as teams of WLDP participants
  • Encouragement to seek out mentorship from expert teachers in the WLDP curriculum
  • Opportunities to work and shadow faculty in WLDP in a variety of specialties

Leadership skill development

  • Andrew Morris-Singer, M.D., president and principal founder, Primary Care Progress, teaching topics from the relational leadership institute on understanding and leveraging your leadership style through self-assessment, group dynamic awareness, and coaching
  • Alicia Moreland-Capuia, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, OHSU School of Medicine, engaging in the meaning and purpose of intersectionality and female identity in healthcare
  • Esther Choo, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of emergency medicine, OHSU School of Medicine, discussing the gender pay-gap in order to inform women of the financial challenges they face in medicine
  • Jackie Wirz, Ph.D., assistant dean for graduate student affairs, OHSU School of Medicine, "Navigating Your Professional Identity and Creating a Personal Board of Directors to Achieve Your Dreams"
  • Sessions with accomplished women including female deans and division chairs in the OHSU community
  • Encouragement of WLDP participants to run for leadership positions in the school of medicine (successes have been numerous including vice-president of the student government)


A creative approach to well-being overlaps with community building as we see resilience coming from connection and strong relationships between WLDP participants across class years. Through the sharing of stories and struggles, students no longer feel alone.

  • Elizabeth Lahti, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, OHSU School of Medicine, teaches the value of personal narrative to provide meaning and purpose in the female student's life going through medical training with active writing and sharing exercises
  • We create a more connected environment within the larger community with senior WLDP student facilitators trained in facilitation and supporting their classmates

In addition to usual class time, community service events connect the women to meaningful opportunities in Portland and have included building gardens for low-income families. We also have potlucks, weekend retreats, and informal events to support experiences beyond the classroom to promote balance and well-being.

Accomplishments include:

  • Financial support and grants from the Oregon Medical Association, Medical Society of Metropolitan Portland, the OHSU School of Medicine Dean's Office & Bacon Grant, American Medical Women's Association Scholarships
  • Presentations at the American Medical Women's Association Annual Conference 2017 (3rd place win in student poster competition), American Medical Association Education Innovation Conference 2017 workshop presentation, Oregon Medical Association Annual Conference 2017 and 2018 workshop presentations, Association of American Medical Colleges annual western states meeting 2018 workshop presentation and poster
  • Multiple WLDP women becoming leaders in the School of Medicine and beyond, including: two presidents of student government, co-chair of a clinic to support health and social services for the under-served in Portland, student founders of the OHSU Gender Equity Center, student health advisory committee president addressing mental health needs of medical students, AMWA student chapter president and the majority of the leadership team, Institute for Healthcare Improvement co-president and IHI Change Agent of the Year Award Recipient.

The WLDP leadership team consists of faculty and medical students.

Faculty Physician Team Lead: Megan Furnari, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, OHSU School of Medicine

Supporting faculty:

The student leadership team is made up of second-year WLDP scholars who completed the program the year prior and were selected by peers and faculty as expert mentors/leaders to help new first year members thrive and grow in our community.

Medical student co-founding members:

  • Kelsey Priest, M.P.H., M.D./Ph.D. Candidate
  • Alexandra Pincus, M.D./Ph.D. Candidate
  • Angela Steichen, M.D. Class of 2018
Women's Leadership Development Program (WLDP) photo collage