On February 3rd this year, we celebrate the third annual National Women Physicians Day, which is the birthday of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. Here at BoardVitals, about 80% of our hardworking medical team is made up of female physicians. To honor them on this special day, we asked two of our female medical editors about their experiences as a female physician in the medical industry.
Lara Dennis, MD
Lara is from Springfield, Illinois and she graduated from the University of Illinois with both her B.S. in Chemistry and M.D. She did a radiology residency at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI and her fellowship in breast imaging at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. She has been practicing for 20 years and specializes in Diagnostic Radiology with a subspecialty in Breast Imaging.
Karen Shackelford, MD
Karen is from Pennsylvania and attended Mississippi State College for Women, now Mississippi University for Women. She is a mother of four children and actually didn’t think of pursuing medical school until after she spent a few years as a stay at home mom. She went back to school to finish her degree to earn a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. After her first two psychology courses in stats and neuroanatomy, her advisor suggested medical school. She applied to med school and graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. She did her residency in the Department of Emergency Medicine.
How did you end up in your specific specialty?
According to the Medscape Female Physician Compensation Report, male physicians (65%) still greatly outnumber female physicians (35%). What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in order to thrive in a male-dominated industry?
Is there a female physician you admire or look up to? If so, who is it?
If you’re a mother, how do you stay sane while juggling both your career and your family?
What anecdotes have been said to you or have you heard about female physicians?
There have been some unpleasant moments. I watched a member of the surgical faculty flash photos of nude women in chains and bondage stuff to a med school class as he talked about careers in plastic surgery. I knew him socially and he wasn’t a bad person, but can you ever imagine a woman physician doing that? I can’t. Why do women have to be so much better to do the same job (in many cases for less money)? The powerpoint peep shows continued through the years and although I am definitely not a prude, I found it annoyed the hell out of me and I was embarrassed for an older woman on the faculty who was definitely placed in an uncomfortable position by her junior residents.
I was the only woman in my program for two years. I watched a highly recruited female faculty member, who repeatedly challenged the primarily male residents, chased out of the department, after a resident retreat in which they complained that she was a homely lesbian and the chair encouraged them to find reportable events.
I was subpoenaed to testify in a sexual discrimination case against our chair, by my female faculty mentor. The acrimony was disruptive. Both women were done in academic medicine. Fortunately, I revisited my residency program and attended grand rounds for months many years later and I was delighted to see so many women in the department, marked improvement in lectures, general professionalism, and collegial atmosphere.”