Women in Medicine

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Your word is not enough

Your word is not enough

I know I am an old person, reading the paper every day, but this letter to the editor sent a bit of a shock wave thru me. A sad message to women: Your word is not enough. https://www.indystar.com/story/opinion/readers/2018/10/03/letters-editor/1498444002/

In it, Jennifer Hall, a mom in Indy, described overhearing her 12 year old daughter and her father discussing the recent issues surrounding the confirmation of Judge Kavanagh. While they reviewed the accusations against him, they discussed what she would do if she ever found herself in a situation like Dr. Ford. Jennifer was shocked to hear her daughter say that not only would she not fight back, but she would not tell. Shocked by that answer, her daughter continued to explain. “What is the point of telling if no one is going to believe you?”

Yikes! Is this what our young people took away from this? Is this what women took away from this?

While we certainly have a lot of work to do in understanding sexual harassment and assault, I had hoped that we, as a community had come along way and that opening up the conversation was the first in a series of steps involved in increased understanding. While the #metoo movement has gained momentum and there have been concrete cases brought to trial and consequences received, we still have a long way to go to increase awareness and provide mentoring and support.

But how does this affect women in medicine? Soklaridis et all In a recent article in NEJM Men’s Fear of Mentoring in the #METOO Era, https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMms1805743 discusses the potential problems inherent in the mentoring relationship as more men become wary of mentoring women. Think Mike Pence’s rule of “never meeting with women alone”. How does this affect those women who would seek guidance and mentorship? If our male mentors and co-workers are reluctant to meet with us individually for fear of possible complaints of harassment then our careers will be limited.

In this article, Soklaridis et all make the argument that academic physicians have a moral obligation to mentor all, regardless of the gender or color. The article is powerful and moving and helped me to better understand that leadership and mentorship is multifactorial and requires careful thought. It also reminded me that being a leader, in the board room, the exam room or at home, one must be cognizant of others needs, willing to take a stand, and be criticized. We succeed only with the help of those around us.

As a women in medicine, I am always reminded of those that helped to carve this path for me, of those that walk beside me and help me through the ruts in the road, and those that come behind for whom I hope to have made the path a bit more smooth.

May we make the world a safer, nicer place where our success is measured in the way we help others achieve. And may the world be a different place when Jennifer Hall’s daughter becomes an adult so that she will be confident to “tell” when she is wronged, even if there is no DNA proof.