by Steven Reames
Friday, February 3 is the 195th birthday of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in America to receive a medical degree. With the medical industry historically dominated by men, it is a good thing to pause and think about the impact women are having as physicians and the challenges they face.
Last year, Harvard researchers found that female doctors caring for elderly hospitalized patients saw better outcomes for their patients: they were less likely to die or return to the hospital after discharge. In fact, the study's authors postulate that if male physicians could achieve the same outcomes as female physicians every year, the potential of 32,000 few patients might die. Wow!
Becoming and being a female physician, though, carries its share of uphill battles. Because they are subject to implicit sexism, the vast majority of women doctors have at least one store to share about a time they felt overlooked or discriminated against in their work simply because of their gender. It could be being referred to as a "lady doctor" (as opposed to just doctor), patients who direct their questions or answers at a male in the room rather than a woman physician, or snide underhanded comments by colleagues. These behaviors and attitudes strip away respect for somebody who has worked just as hard in the same coursework and received the same training as their male counterparts.
The ranks of women in physicians in ACMS is growing too. Last summer our membership survey indicated that of late career physicians (56+), 22% of them were women. For mid-career physicians between 43 and 55, they grew to 29%. But the change comes looking at ACMS physicians between the ages of 30-42 where women represent 41% of our membership. Over all ages, about 1 in 3 local physicians is a woman.
And these women are making an impact. Consider the powerhouses that help grow the quality and depth of medical education in our state and region:
Then there are Dr. Patrice Burgess and Dr. Vicki Wooll, who represent Idaho's physicians to the American Medical Association as Idaho delegates.
Doctors like Andrea Axtell and Julie Gunther who are innovating in the field of Direct Primary Care.
The first Idaho Geriatric Fellow graduate Dr. Kara Kuntz, who will lead a discussion on February 13th following a live telecast Saint Alphonsus by "Being Mortal" author Dr. Atul Gawande.
Dr. Deb Roman, Dr. Sheila Giffen, and Dr. Nona Leslie all lead physician wellness initiatives in their own spheres of influence at IOPA, Saint Al's and St. Luke's.
Plus, how many physicians do you know like Dr. Heather Hammerstedt, Dr. Marietta Thompson, Dr. Susan Marzolf or Dr. Naya Antink - to name just a very few -who have spent their vacation time overseas doing medical missions work?
In addition to those, I cannot even begin to name all the faithful female physicians who labor day-in-and-day-out in just about every specialty in our Valley.
Can I challenge you to take a moment today to stop one of your female colleagues and thank her for pressing on despite the obstacles she faces?