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.