On a cool spring morning, poolside beneath palm trees, one could have easily mistaken the scene for a popular resort. But there was a serious purpose behind this gathering: women’s health.

The fourth annual Women’s Wellness Day, sponsored by UCI’s Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine, was held May 4 at the Radisson Hotel in Newport Beach, where participants were treated to a day of education with a touch of elegance. This year’s theme was “My Body, My Self: A Day of Integrative Strategies for Looking Better and Feeling Great,” and the day offered exactly that.

More than 300 people attended what the center’s namesake, Susan Samueli, called “a great day of learning.” Topics ranged from freedom from food issues to feeding the brain, from skin care to breast cancer. Jacqueline Jacques, event chair, described it as a “public outreach event. It’s an opportunity to reach out to women in the community … to give a glimpse of what integrative medicine is about.”

First-timer Traci Reese had never heard of the center before the event. Young and stylish, Reese is the last person one might think suffers from a debilitating chronic illness, but she struggles with rheumatoid arthritis, which was why her aunt brought her to the event. Reese was excited to “find out about different and new ideas for treatment – from homeopathic medicine to herbalists.” She now intends to explore further the center’s resources.

“We’re seeking to show women the ways they can care for themselves,” said Dr. John Longhurst, center director. “Even though we at the center are focused on research and education, we all believe in wellness.”

Pausing to look around at the enthusiastic attendees, he added, “This is a very healthy event.”

For the first time, the event offered a health expo, featuring 28 exhibitors with the latest health care books, supplements, gourmet food, cosmetics and skin care products, and more. Jacques explained that the health expo emerged as a response to participants’ request for “more information about integrative health resources in the community.”

Outreach efforts like the wellness day have become a key part of the Samueli center’s evolution.

“The center has come a long way,” Samueli said. “It’s growing in so many ways: community education, tai chi classes, the acupuncture clinic, and growing research have given us a much respected place in the community.”