While physician leaders are forging ahead with policy solutions for profession-wide and industry-wide change and CIR members are using the power of collective bargaining to make inroads at the hospital and program levels, an interpersonal approach to shifting the culture of medicine occurs in offices, clinics and operating rooms every day. For years, women physicians have handed down career advice and personal wisdom to prepare the next generation to carry on and face new challenges. CIR members offered the best pearls of wisdom they have received from mentors and their views on being mentors themselves.
Ask for what you want
Something my mentor once told me has really stuck with me—don’t be afraid to ask for things. I realized it was a weakness of mine, and I think it’s something that a lot of my female colleagues struggle with. We think: “I’m going to prove myself, I’m going to do a great job with the task that you’ve given me, and then clearly you’ll recognize my excellence and thus promote me, or thus give me the next opportunity.” Whereas a male counterpart may say “I’m going to do this job and I’m going to do a good job and then I’m going to remind you what a good job I did and I’m going to ask for that promotion or I’m going to ask for that next step.” So something my mentor did with me every time we met, she’d say, “You have to ask me for something today. I don’t care if it’s big or small, I’m going to make you practice.”
—Ashley Prosper, Radiology, LAC+USC, PGY2
On the CIR Women in Medicine Retreat
Overall some of the main takeaways for me have been just seeing women leaders in medicine, hearing about some of their challenges but also hearing about the different approaches that they’ve used to manage challenges and manage success. It was great to see mentor-type figures and successful women who were willing to share their stories. And then from the contract negotiation standpoint, a lot of the terminology was brand new to me, so just having somebody spell it out and also having a person who’s familiar with it say “watch out for these specific things”—that was useful.
—Renee Betancourt, Family Medicine, UCSF/SFGH, PGY2
Mother to daughter wisdom
I think as a minority woman in medicine my mother has been a trailblazer for so many people to follow in her footsteps. When we were starting to talk about contracts, she said, “I’m going to sit down with you and tell you this: ask for what you want, ask for what you deserve, and don’t accept anything less.” I’m so fortunate to have her in my life and to realize these things.
—Kayla Enriquez, Emergency Medicine, Highland Hospital, PGY3
Crashing the Old Boy’s Club
We all know medicine is really like an old boy’s club, especially an old white men’s club, and although many, if not most, of my coworkers at this point tend to be women, the leadership roles in my hospital and in most hospitals are occupied by men. For a woman, especially a woman of color, if you are seeking higher positions, if you are looking for mentorship or leadership roles there’s not a lot of people to look to. I don’t think we acknowledge how much that affects women both in their day-to-day workplace and in achieving their career goals.
I look forward to being a mentor for other people. We have a program where high school kids from the community are linked to our hospital. They’re interested maybe in health careers and they’re from underrepresented minority groups. They come around with us for one afternoon every other month. It’s not something they’re required to do, it’s something they like to do. I know CIR is invested in that pipeline work. . . And there are folks in my residency program who came from the community in Oakland that we serve. You know, sometimes just being who you are is very inspiring to the person you’re taking care of.
—Almaz Dessie, Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital Oakland, PGY2
On the West Coast, Alameda County Medical Center over the years has gained lactation rooms, a strong maternity leave policy, and has established a diversity fund to recruit physicians from groups underrepresented in medicine.
Successive bargaining teams at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. enshrined rights in both the Federal and the District of Columbia Family Medical Leave Acts in their contracts.
New York residents have created and negotiated their own benefits plans that feature benefits especially for pregnant residents and parents. The public hospitals’ benefits plan includes access to HHC daycare programs, a paternity leave and maternity leave policy that addresses rescheduling taxing rotations, relief from
some night calls, and use of paid sick time for parental leave.
The voluntary benefits plan, which covers residents in New York’s private nonprofit hospitals, offers a new mothers program that includes a $1,000 reimbursement for newborn expenses, well baby care and childbirth education. The supplementary obstetrical benefit covers additional costs like breast pumps, lactation classes and supplies.