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Perspectives: Women in Medicine Programs

How do "Women in Medicine" (WIM) programs complement other faculty development programs in medical schools? What value do these gender specific activities bring to the institution?

Cynda Johnson, M.D.

Dean
East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine

At East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine, two studies that appeared to be issues for women revealed information that was relevant to both men and women. Last year I put together a committee to study issues of part-time faculty, initially thinking this was an issue of women and perhaps Generation Y, but discovering in the process that it was germane to late career faculty considering phased retirement or other part-time work. Our recent survey of all faculty on the need for mentoring, a dominant focus for women’s programs, showed that the overwhelming answers from both genders was the need for mentoring and guidance on the promotion and tenure process. It seems that once again the old adage is true: the more things change the more they stay the same.

Young faculty members are often overwhelmed by the endless activities in which they can be involved in academic medicine and the tracks that can take them there. At the same time, each area of clinical medicine, research and education is more demanding than ever. Like a kid in a candy store, the interested faculty person is attracted to many opportunities and without mentors who can reflect back to them what it will mean to pursue the opportunity, they find themselves overwhelmed. They may simply quit, not knowing how to gracefully exit from their over-commitments.

Watching this phenomenon from the dean’s office, I believe we could be headed for a crisis in academic medicine if increasing numbers of faculty cannot find their “fit.” “Women in Medicine” programs are well positioned to take the lead in meeting the development needs of faculty individually, accepting the challenge to participate in their success as academic physicians and scientists.”

J. Renee Chapman Navarro, Pharm.D., M.D.

Associate Dean Academic Affairs
Clinical Professor of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care
University of California, San Francisco
Medical Director of Perioperative Services
San Francisco General Hospital

As the United States becomes increasingly diverse, our academic institutions need to embrace that diversity and devise strategies for improving the “academic climate” for faculty who are underrepresented in medicine. By utilizing their leadership and organizational structure to encourage, support and sponsor institutional programs that seek to increase the recruitment, retention and promotion of other faculty that are underrepresented in medicine, Women in Medicine programs promote all faculty and provide additional added value to the institution. Lessons learned in the establishment of WIM programs can provide the framework for additional faculty development programs. We must exhibit our leadership by driving these processes, because it will take a sustained focus to foster significant change.

Many of the effective strategies utilized for WIM programs can also be used for faculty of color. Mentoring programs, search committee education, and the requirement for broad outreach in searches, combined with faculty development opportunities in laboratory management, leadership skills, and grant writing are but a few of the examples of successful strategies. Both formal (surveys) and informal processes (open forum, breakfast with the dean) of assessing institutional climate can be used to inform the leadership. The Dean’s support of clinical and scientific programmatic development in areas likely to attract a diverse applicant pool and collaboration with human resources to enhance the diversity of all segments of the staff contributes to an environment that is welcoming.

While I recognize that there is much left to be done for women in academic medicine, as leaders, we must look critically at our institutions to assure that the gains that have been made are sustained for women as well as for others who are underrepresented within our faculty. An outstanding medical institution can only be sustained by supporting the diversity of the faculty.

Carol L. Hampton, M.M.S.

Associate Dean for Faculty and Instructional Development
Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine
MCV Campus

At the VCU School of Medicine, the Women in Medicine program is part of the overall faculty development program that was established in 1994, to assist all faculty in becoming accomplished, productive, and successful in their chosen endeavors of teaching, research, patient care or administration. The Office of Faculty and Instructional Development provides programs for all faculty, since everyone can use guidance, encouragement, and skill development to ensure success in their careers. Women and minorities often have special professional development issues which must be addressed for career advancement and to achieve their full potential within academic medicine.

The old adage “a rising tide floats all boats” fits well here. Everyone benefits from the rising tide. Efforts to change the culture benefit all faculty. The Women in Science, Dentistry, and Medicine Faculty Organization functions primarily to enhance professional development of women faculty and students, and to encourage communication and openness across the culture. www.womeninmedicine.vcu.edu/ External Link.
The programs are managed by the school’s Office of Faculty and Instructional Development and promoted to all faculty. Our men faculty join our women for events, especially when topics relate explicitly to career advancement. The Committee on the Status of Women and Minorities (COSOWAM) currently is conducting a faculty exit survey to learn more about why faculty leave our institution and to better determine factors and intervention that can help retain faculty. Preliminary data show that male and female and white and non-white faculty’s reasons for leaving were similar.

Women’s programs are still needed. The most recent data from the AAMC 2004-2005 benchmarking indicate that women full professors now represent 4% of all faculty appointments. Of women faculty, 12% are full professors and 19% are associate professors. These are low numbers considering that women physicians have been in the pipeline for sometime, as in 1980-81 when 25% of the medical school graduates were women. So, there is much work to be done to increase women at the highest levels in our medical schools and better utilize women’s potential.

One day in a hallway discussion, a male department chair asked me, “Carol, what are doing for me these days?” My answer: “Working with the women faculty in your department so that they will be successful and your department will thrive.”

Faculty Vitae

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