I have a confession. When I was initially asked whether I wanted to take over my division as chief, I wasn't 100% enthused. It's not how I envisioned my future. Medical education is my passion. I hoped for a future career in education administration (more on that to come), not clinical administration. But, I was able to be convinced that this could be an okay move for me temporarily. I would still be able to do everything I enjoyed (research, teaching, patient care) and still in the running for any higher level education positions that might come up.
It has turned out to be a great move for me from a professional development standpoint. It has helped develop me as a leader. I didn't anticipate the amount of reward I would receive from leading a group of physicians, mentoring them, and supporting them in their career pursuits. I love getting to set the tone for the group and to encourage a working environment of support and, yes, balance. I'm proud to have created the environment I would have wanted.
Eleven years ago, I sat in my then-chief of medicine's office along with my then-boss (both men) and told them I was pregnant. I only had been working there for a year. I knew I needed to let them know to plan for the next academic year's schedule. Their faces dropped. There was absolutely zero joy. I could almost hear their mental calculations of how they would account for the weeks of my absence in that awkward silence. The first words spoken were, "How long is that these days, 6 weeks?" My heart dropped. "Actually, I would like to take 12 weeks." Please know that I like and respect both of these men and still do, but their reactions left me feeling like a burden.
I remember telling some acquaintances about what happened and how sad I felt afterwards. One woman who directed a nonprofit said, "Oh honey, if I was your boss and you told me that news, I would have hugged you and asked how I could help." That struck me. Because, that reaction would have been so wonderful. Could it have actually been like that? I've kept what she said close to me all of these years and have tried to channel that sentiment when I've been the boss hearing that same news.
Last week, I met with one of my junior faculty who just returned from her maternity leave. We talked about her transition back to work, their childcare arrangements, and where she stood in terms of identifying academic areas of interest. At the end, she told me that she felt entirely supported throughout her entire pregnancy and maternity leave and that she wanted to thank me for that.
There are plenty of headaches associated with my job, but they seem so insignificant compared to the parts that are so good - the opportunity to make things better for the women (and men) who follow me.