As a medical student and a resident, I started to notice differences between myself (and my education) and that of my male colleagues. I noticed differences in the way their doctor title was a social status booster, helping them to pick up girls at the bar, while it was something my friends and I routinely hid from guys we met. I noticed differences in my evaluations by faculty and colleagues. How many of the guys were getting called “bitchy” for giving orders? I noticed it in the interactions between nursing staff and male vs female resident physicians. I did not understand it until I became an attending, until I got involved in women physician groups and heard the universality of these events. This wasn’t just a ME thing. It was a WE thing.
So I got involved. I created a women’s group for the residents at my residency program. I attended a women’s conference for female physicians in Emergency Medicine. And that, for me was extremely satisfying. I knew I was passionate about women in medicine, but I had no idea what to do with that passion.
It was not until I struggled with infertility that I came up with some answers. My infertility journey led me to doing some research where I stumbled across a paper about infertility in female physicians. Guess what, our infertility rate is TWICE the national average. I vividly remember sitting in genetics class and learning about rates of down syndrome based on mother’s age at gestation. I promised myself that day I would have all my children PRIOR to age 35. No one taught us about our own infertility risks. About how hard trying to have children could become for us when we wait until as close to 35 as we can get! I realized THIS was something that we needed to be teaching to female medical students. They needed to be informed about the risk that putting their life on hold could have. Involuntary childlessness is NOT ideal.
I decided to start a blog with the intent of writing a series titled, “The 10 Things I Wish I Learned in Medical School.” I wanted to inform future female physicians about all the things that I had learned too late, not just about the risks of infertility. I wanted to talk about how gender affects our medical evaluations, how sexism still runs rampant in our work places, and how I learned too late what I needed in a husband in order for me to successfully be a working wife. I started out on that path and was given advice by someone much wiser than myself to aim bigger and reach further. My best friend, co-resident, co-attending and now co-Editor-in-Chief has always had a love for advising medical students, specifically females and underrepresented minority groups. So we decided to create sheMD – a free-open access medical education platform for women who want a career in medicine. Our goal is to inspire and education women in medical training about gender disparities and to provide tools to overcome inequality. We hope to create a place where female pre-med, med students and residents can come for advice, inspiration and the empowering feeling that they are NOT alone on this journey.