One evening, overwhelmed by burnout, I drafted a letter of resignation to my program director and saved it on my computer. The next morning, I deleted the email without sending it.
I first heard of Yayoi Kusama last year when her spellbinding exhibit came to the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Admittedly late to the international zeitgeist of Kusama, what initially drew me in was her story — a Japanese-American avant-garde artist who suffered from severe mental illness and successfully transformed that suffering into riveting artwork.
I wanted to know how other females in medicine felt on the subject of misogyny in medicine. I compiled a survey with 10 questions and space for comments. I used SurveyMonkey to create it, shared it publicly across social media, and trusted that only those who identified as female would complete it. The results are as follows.
We offer unique perspectives from three women at different levels of their gastroenterology careers.
Over the past 50 years, the demographics of medical school graduates in the United States has changed dramatically with the number of women (47%) almost equaling the number of men in 2014. However, the Association of American Medical Colleges reports that out of all the sub-specialties, orthopaedic surgery has the lowest proportion of female residents, instructors, assistant, associate, and full professors.
I distinctly remember my drive to the hospital for the first shift of my residency five years ago. It was a night shift, a fact that only added to my trepidation. My brain bounced frantically back and forth among a random assortment of topics of which I lacked, I felt, sufficient knowledge, but which knowledge I felt sure I would imminently be called upon to use in a critical situation.
Just as we have landmarks events that shape us in the adolescence of our personal lives, physicians also have landmark events that shape them in the adolescence of medical training — residency.
Several months ago, I was asked by an attending about my future plans. “So I can pimp you,” he said. I told him that I am pursuing further training in addiction medicine. “Isn’t that just for psychiatrists?”
The word “gestalt” is thrown around constantly during medical school, residency, and beyond. Although never specifically taught, we all develop an idea of what gestalt means — impression, clinical intuition, gut feeling, something we are meant to develop over time.
At this stage in our training as residents, we are at high risk for making mistakes. These mistakes can vary in range and type. It is impossible to go through residency without making an error, no matter how big or small.
In medical school, competence was defined by studying the course pack, that stack of crucial lecture notes, and memorizing the details therein. Especially in the first two years, my classmates and I spent virtually all of our waking hours reading text books, attending lectures, highlighting and underlining every word of the course material because we were told that all of it, every word, was important. This understanding of competence reflected the clear but unspoken end game: to have the best score on the exam possible, or at least a better score than the other half of the class.
Some time ago, you walked across the stage and received your first white coat. More recently, you walked across another stage and became hooded into your profession as a physician. Congratulations. You are now the owner of a piece of thick paper that allows you to medically manage acutely ill patients and alter the course of a patient’s treatment.