September 29, 2016
Did you know September is designated by the American Medical Association (AMA) as Women in Medicine Month? I didn’t, until my daughter, a young physician herself, told me last week.
When I was a medical student in the mid-1970s, just 16 percent of medical school graduates nationally were women. Today that number is 47 percent (data for academic year 2013-4). This year at McGovern Medical School, women actually outnumber men in our first-year class – with 126 women and 114 men. I think we’d all agree, we’ve come a long way. Today’s young women are entering medicine in unprecedented numbers, are building wonderful careers, and are making an impact on our profession.
Forty-one percent of our medical school faculty are women, which is slightly higher than the national average – according to 2015 Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) data, 39 percent of medical school faculty are women. Most women on our faculty are at the instructor and assistant professor ranks, with a minority at the associate and full professor ranks (37% of our associate professors are women and 34% of all women medical school faculty are associate professors; 25% of our full professors are women and 22% of all women medical school faculty are full professors). These statistics raise important questions, why is there such gender disparity in professional ranks of academic medicine, and what should be done to change those academic career trajectories?
Even fewer women serve in senior leadership roles nationally; the statistics are dreary. According to a recent AAMC article, women comprise just 15 percent of department chairs and a paltry 16 percent of medical school dean roles. At McGovern Medical School, 45% of associate/vice deans and 21% of assistant deans are women, but only 4 of our department chairs are women.
With a growing number of women medical school students, residents, and faculty entering the medical profession, there is an increased urgency to recognize the contributions of women and to provide opportunities for mentoring, career growth, and leadership.
The Women Faculty Forum was established last year to provide advocacy on behalf of women faculty at McGovern Medical School and to provide networking and professional development opportunities. The organization has recognized and supported women through awards, career development, and educational events.
Putting a spotlight on women in medicine reminds us of the many contributions and strides that have been made throughout the history of our profession. One woman featured by the AMA recently is a distinguished alumna of this very school, Dr. Nancy Dickey, ’76. Dr. Dickey was the first woman to be elected to the AMA Board of Trustees and the first female president of the AMA. Our medical school also was home to Dr. Benjy Brooks, the first board-certified woman pediatric surgeon in the United States. Dr. Brooks joined the medical school faculty in 1973 and remained active in the life of this school until her death in 1998.
Look around you, women are making an impact every day in medicine. We have some amazing women at our medical school—physicians but also nurses and other members of the healthcare team. Let’s take this opportunity to recognize and celebrate their achievements.
Speaking of women this week, I’d like to request your support for TEAL OUT day tomorrow, Sept. 30. Please wear teal in support of ovarian cancer patients and cancer research. Also post your photo with #TEALOUTDay2016.