Monday, July 16, 2012

Apparently I’m only worth ¼ of a man


This weekend I attended a surgical conference in a beautiful location.  I had been looking forward to bringing my family with me to enjoy a nice weekend getaway.  I barely got out of the hospital on Friday in order to get there, and as a result I felt totally rushed and nervous about the talk I was supposed to give Saturday morning.  I was slated to give my talk right after the big state of surgery update talk by a surgical big wig.  He talked about the health care reform, the surgeon shortage, the effect of hours restrictions on surgeon proficiency at the end of residency and then he talked about the detrimental effect of the influx of all these pesky women into medical school and now SURGERY!!!! Yes, I’m actually serious.  This dude got up in front of an audience at a major meeting and had a slide that said that four female surgeons were required to equal the productivity of one male surgeon .  Yes, these words were on his slide.  He prefaced the slide with a line about it potentially being controversial, but asserted that it was based in statistics and facts that were not cited at any point in his talk.  One of my mentors was sitting beside me and made an immediate rebuttal in addition to commenting again at the end of his talk.  She made it clear that she was a productive female surgeon and that statements like his are what lead to unfair hiring practices.  I whispered to her that I planned to take one more dig at him when I got up to talk.  And she smiled and told me to “go for it!”

I then got up to do my talk after my introduction by a very prominent female surgeon leader.   Suddenly, all my prior nervousness was gone - I’ve always been good at making waves!  So, I loaded my talk, got behind the podium and calmly mentioned that I was never one to shy away from controversy and that as a former economist I was well aware that statistics can easily be manipulated to support your agenda.  I then mentioned that I would now present the research I completed while pregnant in the lab and more productive than anyone else with me.

It is ridiculous that we continue to fight against these types of stereotypes and misinformation.  The only reassuring thing about the entire situation was that so many people came up to me afterwards in support of what I had said.  Women add value to medicine in so many ways, we are essential.  I don’t have to say much about it.  I’m preaching to the choir here.

ROAR!!!

13 comments:

  1. How disgusting and annoying. Thank you for putting him in his place! I was a speaker at a local ACS conf. last spring and one of the surgeons' speeches was so offensive...about how making vascular surgery residencies integrated with general surgery is basically the equivalent of skipping college and going to auto mechanic school instead. I hate to say it, but when some of these older surgeons retire, it's going to make the profession a lot less toxic.

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  2. Thanks for posting this, Cutter. I have been in touch with you through this site to ask you questions about what it means to be a female in surgery, and I was so grateful for you taking the time to respond so generously and graciously at the time.

    I am a first year medical student with a 6-year-old, married to a PGY2. I have felt a deep propensity towards surgery since I first observed it when I was 15, but as you might imagine coordinating two medical careers in the same family has meant so many doubts about what pursuing surgery someday may mean for me, for my family, for the profession. Of course I have a lot of time and a lot to learn before choosing a specialty, but I refuse to be discouraged along the way by people who don't know my abilities or situation.

    PLEASE keep posting and speaking and teaching and motivating, because the loud, powerful voice of big wigs like you mentioned above (who are mentors of the upcoming generation of physicians) pervade medical education and still set the tone. We (and I do mean me!) need voices like yours to combat the others. Female medical students should decide to go into specialties other than surgery because of reasons that are uniquely individual (interest, passion, family, time - whatever they choose!), NOT because it was indoctrinated that they are worth less than men, that they cannot perform the job as well purely by virtue of being female, or that they are a disservice to the specialty.

    Also, there ARE increasing numbers of men out there in medicine, and all professions, who want more parity between work and life time balance, and to label lower productivity as something uniquely feminine and thus undesirable is just disingenuous and archaic.

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  3. that is absolutely infuriating. Awesome rebuttal.

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  4. I'm SUPER PROUD of you! Those Big Wigs who can't keep up with the change should retire instead of making a mess everywhere they go.

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  5. Woah! Great post. Unreal that this man had the guts to make such unfounded statements at a national meeting! You should be proud of your work, your family and your success. Thank you for posting.

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  6. And we're smarter too:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9401241/IQ-tests-women-score-higher-than-men.html

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  7. WTF?? I can't believe that any man with any respect for himself would get up and say that in front of people. Or at all. How ridiculous. Way to go for standing up for yourself and for all women.

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  8. Ugh this makes me so angry!! Thank you for saying something

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  9. I am so angered! But thanks for a great rebuttal! What is WRONG with people!?

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  10. You didn't just stand up for yourself. You stood up for ALL OF US. Thank you.

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