Being a Woman in Medicine

GRADUATE, noun
grad·​u·​ate | \ˈgra-jə-wət,  graj-wət\ : a holder of an academic degree or diploma

This was me in 1998 at my Medical school graduation day in New York City. I had just gotten married a month prior. Wow, not only do I look really young but I had no idea what my journey would entail as I would start Pediatric internship in just a few weeks!

What does it mean, really mean to be a women physician?

  • It means you work hard, sometimes even harder than your male counterparts, to receive the same recognition.
  • It often means getting paid less than your male counterparts.
  • It means a lot of sacrifice…missing social and family occasions that some won’t understand.

Much of my 20’s, aside from getting married, I was either studying or on call or living at the hospital.
I am fortunate to have been surrounded by so many strong women physicians that have taught me so much and allowed me to grow.

What I can tell you is this:

  1. Never allow yourself to be made inferior. You are a physician, a DOCTOR. Do not allow health care staff refer to you by your first name while your male counterparts are addressed as Dr. X. You’ve worked just as hard for that respect.
  2. When you find a partner/spouse/SO, be sure that person understands what you deal with in a sometimes very stressful job, that you’ll be sleeping at the hospital many nights, and that you won’t have every holiday or weekend off.
  3. If you decide to have kids, just know that your career path may change depending on what your family, and what you need and want. And that is OK. Unfortunately, there will be other women who will judge you for your choices. While you can’t control others’ opinions, do not let ANYONE make you second-guess the choices you’ve made for your family and your career.
  4. Take care of YOU! As women, we are natural caretakers focusing on our spouses/partners, aging parents, kids and our patients. But we often forget to take care of ourselves, especially since our ‘free’ time is so limited. Carve out that time for your physical and mental health.
  5. Find a mentor. These mentors will change as you move through your training, your career, your life.  And understand, your mentor doesn’t always have to be a woman.  While a women physician can guide you on many facets that you share, a male physician mentor can be a wonderful advisor for other aspects of your career. Like your life, your career will take different paths—find those advisors that you not only aspire to be, but can help you reach your goals.
  6. Finally, choose medicine because this is your passion. Do it for the right reasons. Don’t do it for someone else or for the perception of prestige and money. Do it for YOU! Medicine is not an easy profession but if you truly love it and have that desire to work hard and make those sacrifices, it is the most rewarding career, in my opinion, out there.
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