Friday, June 6, 2008

Moms in Medicine

When I was in medical school a male attending physician told me that no matter what I did, things would always be different for me because of my gender. His words rankled - this couldn't possibly be a good thing - so how I tried to prove him wrong! Anything that a male medical student could do, I could do better - and was rewarded by all of the "perks" that came along with great performances. When it came time to match, neurology was my program of choice and I started my program with the same gusto I had shown as a student. Oh, there was one exception: right after graduation from medication school, I got married.

But being married didn't seem to put too much of a damper on my enthusiasm for throwing myself into my work and I continued to shine, collecting various awards and accolades through the first 3 years of residency. As my final year of post-graduate training approached, it became time to name the new chief residents. By then, I had an announcement of my own - I was almost 3 months pregnant. I had told only my program director, believing that he should be able to schedule around the time I'd need to be away from hospital duties as early as possible. Shortly after giving my news to the program director, the chief of neurology summoned me to his office. As I sat down, he greeted me warmly and spoke in glowing terms about how well he thought I had performed during my residency. Then he said this: "Artemis, I think you should be chief resident. Everyone that I've spoken with thinks you should be chief resident. But I'm going to name John Smith* chief because you're pregnant."

You can be angry for me because of this. I'm not (anymore). I'm not sharing this story because I've carried a grudge through the years; I'm sharing it because it was this event that brought me full circle, depositing me right back at the attending who stated that things would always be different for me due to my gender. Ultimately, he was right: I'm a woman, and I'm a mom - and this will always color the way I practice. The stories we share here have a common thread, but are unique to us because we're moms. You won't find these same stories on a blog written by men, even if they're up for Father of The Year award, because things are different for us. And that is a good thing.
Thanks for sharing our times and our stories.
A
*name changed

8 comments:

  1. I assumed I was off the chief track when I came into my residency pregnant. Later there were a lot of people who pushed me to put myself forth as a candidate for a chief position, but every time I was asked, I said that I wasn't interested. Because chief is a lot of extra work and I didn't want to give up that tiny amount of free time I had that I was able to dedicate to my family. Occasional regrets, but not really.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a great, great post. This is what this blog is all about.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So after your son was born did you think that was a wise decision or did you feel like you still would have been up for the task?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Susan, this is a great question, even if I have no specific answer. To be honest, I took myself off of the hard-driven career path after this occurred and have tried not to play the game of "what if"; while I've occasionally strayed back to working far too many hours for far too long, I find that my family is a great stabilizer. Could I have handled the extra responsibilites AND a child? Many women do on a regular basis and succeed admirably; others feel torn between the two. I like to think that I'd have succeeded :)
    A

    ReplyDelete
  5. A. That is absolutely beautiful!

    Pk

    ReplyDelete
  6. Gosh. Is it wrong that I hope that the chief of neurology might have developed some horrible neurologic disease that only you could treat?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow, I think this is blatant gender discrimination. You are exactly right though. We are always being forced to choose between our careers and our family. I had a similar experience with an international rotation that I really wanted as a resident. I got taken off the rotation when I announced I was pregnant, because of concerns about my maternity leave, and also because the director didn't want me to bring my young child there (no mention of the men who bring their wives and young children on these similar rotations). I'm glad that you're not mad anymore. I think I'm still a little mad about it, but you're right, at the end of the day I make decisions to work less so I can spend more time with my family.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for sharing. I had a very similar story, but I had a 3 month old at the time. They waited until I was on vacation to make the announcement. I am thankful I was not named. I was blessed to have more time with my family. Everything happens for a reason!

    ReplyDelete

Comments on posts older than 14 days are moderated as a spam precaution. There may be a delay between submitting your comment and its publishing. Thanks for commenting!