June 21, 2011

Elastic Doctor Women

an anesthesiologist recently wrote an op-ed about women in medicine where she discusses how the personal decisions made (mostly by women, she says) about having children should be taken into account when we're deciding who to admit to medical school and residency programs.

And I quote:

"I have great respect for stay-at-home parents, and I think it’s fine if journalists or chefs or lawyers choose to work part time or quit their jobs altogether. But it’s different for doctors. Someone needs to take care of the patients."

"Students who aspire to go to medical school should think about the consequences if they decide to work part time or leave clinical medicine. It’s fair to ask them — women especially — to consider the conflicting demands that medicine and parenthood make before they accept (and deny to others) sought-after positions in medical school and residency. They must understand that medical education is a privilege, not an entitlement, and it confers a real moral obligation to serve."

I'm not quite sure what to say first.
Luckily, other people responded faster and I got to read some eloquent Letters to the Editor.

One, from a neurosurgeon who said that this had long needed to be said, that maybe you could be a part time pediatrician and be okay, but any part time surgeon would be inferior because her skills would be worse.

Another, from a family med doctor who said that she thought it was interesting that an anesthesiologist - who walks away at the end of the day without any patients, whose patients are asleep for 90% of the time she sees them - would be able to comment on what constitutes "full-time". Spending 30-35 hrs/wk face-to-face with patients grappling with all sorts of diagnostic dilemmas certainly is different than 40hrs/week of unconscious patients who never call you at 2am.

One of my favorites was from a doctor who wondered why the author wanted to ask prospective med students about working part time and not if they wanted to subspecialize, or if they wanted to do academic medicine or work for a pharmaceutical company... or all the other ways doctors practice that is not filling our major needs for doctors.
At this point in my career, those decisions about family and lifestyle seem to be closer and more real than ever before and I do feel a strong pull towards the honor and responsibility of practicing medicine, of being someone's doctor. So I'm doing a lot of adjusting of my vision of being a mom, of being a wife, of being a neighbor, a sister, a cousin, an aunt, a dog owner...

but don't we want our doctors to be all those things too?
we don't want to create these doctors who live in the vacuum of a hospital, where they don't interact with anyone without asking them how they'd rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10, do we? we want doctors to understand the importance of parents, of siblings, of partners, of children. how can we expect doctors to understand how we value these people without expecting them to value them also?
I'm still not sure how I will be all these things at once, and it certainly hasn't been easy to be a med student and all these things, but I'm going to keep trying.

(in case you don't know, that's Elastigirl, a pixxar character from the Incredibles,
designed to be able to to everything at once - the perfect mom)

No comments:

Post a Comment