According to data derived from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Data Warehouse, only 6.9% of medical school graduates in 1966 were women. By 1981, that number had risen to 24.9% and, in 2014, women comprised approximately 47.5% of all medical school graduates. Moreover, the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) reports that 50% of female physicians have their first baby during residency training. All of this amounts to dramatically increased numbers of women physicians growing their families and developing their careers simultaneously.
Medical residents are subject to the same challenges as employees in other professions. Meeting these challenges requires the cooperation of healthcare employers and employees in finding ways to ensure that adequate time and space is allotted to welcome new arrivals into the world, and doing so without jeopardizing the careers into which physicians have invested so much.
When Gayle Woodson, MD, an otolaryngologist at Ear, Nose, Throat, and Plastic Surgery Associates in Winter Park, Fla., entered the field in 1976, she was one of only 12 female otolaryngologists in the country. Dr. Woodson vividly recalls being asked during her medical school interview, “What will you do about children?” Taken by surprise, she replied, “Well, I guess I won’t have any.” She didn’t take herself at her word, however, and did indeed get pregnant during her fellowship. She went on to start her job during her eighth month of pregnancy and waded her way through a system that was not necessarily ideal for female physicians who wished to have children.