Sweetheart, It’s Women in Medicine Month! - Annals of Internal Medicine: Fresh Look Blog


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Sweetheart, It’s Women in Medicine Month!

It’s Women in Medicine Month! These days, fewer people may ask why such a celebration is necessary in the era of “National Dog Day” and “National Doughnut Day.” But there are still some who question the need for formal organizations and partnerships like the one American College of Physicians (ACP) recently entered with TIME’S UP Healthcare.

ACP joined TIME’S UP Healthcare as a founding member organization to “unify national efforts to make the workplace safer, more equitable, and more inclusive for all sexual/gender and racial/ethnic groups in all health care positions.” One type of discrimination they seek to address is sexual harassment and the “perception of organizational tolerance” that allows it to adversely affect members of the health care community (1).Seems like a lot for a professional organization like ACP to take on, particularly when they’re busy with managing education, advocacy, and clinical support for its 126,000 members. But ACP has acknowledged that issues like harassment cannot be effectively combatted only at the individual level when cultures of discrimination are pervasive in an organization.

So if you need convincing, here’s a list of why I think the partnership between ACP and TIME’S UP Healthcare is great. It is also known as “A list of things said to and about me at various stages of my career.

By my patients:
  • “Always good to see you, but you look better in blue. Wear that nice blue thing I like next time.”
  • “Honey, that’s just your opinion.” (When I describe evidence supporting statin use for secondary prevention.)
  • “Listen, lady. I know what I need.” (When I decline requests for narcotics for chronic pain.)
  • “Sweetheart, maybe that’s what you think.” (When I explain I will not increase dosages or amounts of medications for erectile dysfunction when the current dose is sufficient enough to give the patient erections that last 30 minutes rather than their preferred “hours long, multiple times a day,” which they describe to me in unnecessary detail despite my redirecting and telling them I don’t need to hear more.)

By other members of the health care team:
  • “Honey, lookin’ good today!”
  • “You know I like that dress.”
  • “Sweetie, it’s just because you’re young.”

By superiors (men and women):
  • “I have a hard time giving leadership positions to young women, who are just going to get pregnant and leave.”
  • “A team member is accused of inappropriate sexual behavior, and someone suggested you might have been involved. I’m sure you weren’t, but it would be a good idea to change your brand since there must have been something that led them to think you could have done something like this in the workplace.”
  • “Don’t get so upset.” (When I complain about patients make sexual innuendos during visits.)

As far as I know, none of these people was reprimanded by anyone except for me—when I eventually had the confidence to speak out. Even that has taken some time getting used to. But my inspiration has come from actions like ACP’s, who have embraced one of the best ways to combat these “perceptions of organizational tolerance”: being very clear that they do not tolerate this kind of individual and structural harassment.

I’m reminded frequently of something the CEO of my professional organization said to me about sexual harassment I had experienced: “This is not okay. We have to do something.”

So she did.

And now I’m an even prouder member of ACP this Women in Medicine Month.

  1. Fiellin LE, Moyer DV. Assuring gender safety and equity in health care: the time for action is now. Ann Intern Med. 2019;171:127-128. [PMID: 31207610] doi:10.7326/M19-0229

No comments:

Post a Comment

By commenting on this site, you agree to the Terms & Conditions of Use.