Who is the Doctor?

#Heforshe is a hashtag that has spread across Twitter as a way to encourage male allies to support their female colleagues. While not unique to healthcare, it has been embraced by #medtwitter to advocate for a more inclusive and diverse workplace.

#HeforShe has been applied to a number of situations, one of which is being an active bystander to address microaggressions: slights based on stereotypes. While microaggressions are often unconscious on the part of the transgressor, the implications and cumulative effects are negative.

For example, some physicians—typically female and/or minority—repeatedly have to clarify that they are indeed physicians. When this confusion comes from a patient, it can have a detrimental effect on the physician-patient relationship as well as physician moral. @Choo_ek once wrote that she has to use her title 5 times before patients remember she is their doctor.

For women physicians, patients may identify the male medical student, resident, or nurse in the room as the physician, even after introductions have been made.

While there are many ways to handle this microaggression, the psychological principles of positive and negative emotional attractors (PEA/NEA)—a framework I learned from John Schaffner during my MBA coursework—can help explain why bystander intervention is such a successful method. This framework refers to the relationship between emotional stimuli and neurotransmitters of the autonomic nervous system. While NEA can make one defensive, anxious, guilty, and result in a decrease of executive functioning, PEA can make one hopeful and enhance resonant relationships.