Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Parenting in medicine mentoring panel

I just attended the annual Society of General Internal Medicine conference - a conference that always inspires me. You can tell the values of an organization from its meeting. SGIM is understated (no commercial sponsors or huge pharma-dripping exhibit hall) and the work presented is largely focused on health disparities, improving the health of our society, and education. The opening plenary session was titled "Does the Moral Arc of the Universe Really Bend Towards Justice?" (The answer was a heartening yes.)

One of the sessions I attended was a Parenting in Medicine Mentoring Panel, a wonderful idea with an unfortunate acronym. Nancy Rigotti, who directs the Office of Women's Careers at Harvard and a past President of SGIM, led the panel. Mothers in medicine of various stages of their academic career shared their stories, much like we do here. There was also time for questions in the packed room of mostly women and a handful of men (including one division head who spoke about his support for work-life balance in his department by budgeting maternity leaves and family leaves, into his yearly FTE equation, and contracting with emergency child care services- awesome.)

Some key points that were made by panelists and the audience:
  • Being a physician makes you a better mother. That quality of being calm under pressure comes in mighty handy when you’re faced with a teenager who announces, “I didn’t go to school today.”
  • Make your partner a partner. Many women echoed this. Some split the weekdays in terms of who was responsible for making dinner for the evening
  • Get help to do things you don’t want to do to spend that time with your kids. If you can afford housecleaning help, it is worth it.
  • If you find yourself working in an unsupportive environment, find a peer group who all have kids to help cover each other when needed.
  • Take risks - in your career path, in life
  • There is no one way to do it. We each find ways to make it work with our families and choices.
  • Don't delay having your family. Unintentional childlessness or having fewer children than desired happens to mothers in medicine.
  • On-site childcare can be a godsend.
  • Make family dinners a priority.
  • Share our stories, form communities of support. (See: MiM byline)
Finally, this thought was shared: Kids are a gift, not an achievement. In all of these ridiculous Mommy Wars and trying to decide who is doing it better, why not just focus on the gift?


  1. Inspiring. Thank you for bringing together this community, and for your humor, your intellect, your creativity, and your supportive friendship, online and off.

  2. All fantastic advice, except 'don't delay having your family'. There is no one best time to have kids. There is a risk to having them during training and a risk of waiting too long. I say do what feels right for you because no matter what you do you will have things you can regret and things that make you happy. It is true that there are biological realities. On the other hand, my daughter was born without drama when I was almost 38, so waiting worked out great for me. Because the point before it is so much more important: "There is no one way to do it. We each find ways to make it work with our families and choices."

  3. T - Aw, as someone else recently said, we have a mutual adoration society going on. Am so glad to call you a friend.

    hh - I agree. Waiting can work for some. I waited until after training and was glad I did. And then there's the pleasant surprises that laugh at our well-thought out plans.


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