WTAE morning news anchor Kelly Frey received the 2018 Women Who Rock (WWR) Award last year for documenting and sharing her battle with triple-negative breast cancer. This included her live streaming a tour of the Magee-Womens Research Institute and then crossing the street to UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital to receive her mammogram results.
“This whole experience tied into Women Who Rock, and sharing her story tied into her and her open public battle,” says WWR CEO and founder Melinda Colaizzi. “We kept hearing, ‘Wow Kelly, thank you so much for doing this. I was always so afraid to get a mammogram, and now I feel more comfortable.’ That’s exactly what we’re trying to do through this.”
Now in its third year, the annual WWR benefit concert raises money to support women's health.
This year, WWR celebrated Women’s Health Awareness Week on May 12-18 by letting prominent women in Pittsburgh take over its official Instagram account, allowing those affected by health issues or working in the health field to share their stories via social media, much like Frey did.
“It’s all about empowerment and women in music,” says Colaizzi, “and having them come together and unite to raise funds for women’s health research, which is very much understudied.”
Magee-Womens is the largest research institute in the U.S. focused solely on the health of women and infants. More than 100 nationally recognized physician-scientists are engaged in groundbreaking research on women's health. In 2018, WWR donated over $26,000 directly to the Oakland-based organization. For 2019, they hope to quadruple that amount.
“We had a lot of conversations with our event committee about, ‘Did we want to place those funds to one specific research field? Would it just go to ovarian cancer? Would it just go to breast cancer?’” says Colaizzi. “But what we learned about the research institute is that there are so many different issues and different avenues of women’s health that don’t get the same media coverage. We just felt that all these different issues were equally important, and we wanted to give them that money and have them allocate it however they wanted.”
This year’s WWR award recipient is Dr. Sharon Hillier, professor and vice-chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Magee-Womens Research Institute. Her team recently discovered a ring, the first of its kind, able to stop the spread of HIV in women. During Women’s Health Awareness Week, Dr. Hillier was one of the featured Instagram takeover guests, giving the world an intimate look into her lab. Frey will return to WWR on Thu., May 30 to present the award to Hillier.
This year’s event at Stage AE will feature an all-female fronted lineup with headliner, Shelia E. The famous percussionist has performed and/or recorded with Prince, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan, Patti LaBelle, and Stevie Nicks, among others.
Joining Shelia E. is Lyndsey Smith, DJ Jess, award-winning women’s a cappella group Sounds of Pittsburgh Chorus, and this year’s Rising Star Contest winner, Melina Bowser, a current student at North Allegheny High School. In addition to the music, there is a beauty bar, photo booth, silent auction, and more.
“It’s really all about a night of empowering women and making a difference,” says Colaizzi.