James E. Arnold, MD, Julius W. McCall Professor and chair of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery and professor of pediatrics at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, said his department has done “nothing special” to cultivate more women residency applicants “other than to emphasize that we want really bright, smart, talented people in our specialty and our department. And if we’re not going to consider women, we’re missing too much of the population!” Currently, women comprise one-third of the department at his institution.
Explore This IssueMarch 2010
Mentoring Future Leaders
Outreach must be intentional and ongoing in order to develop future leaders in otolaryngology, said Gavin Setzen, MD, FACS, FAAOA, president of the New York State Society of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, clinical associate professor of otolaryngology at Albany Medical College and president of Albany ENT & Allergy Services, PC, in Albany, N.Y. He said the AAO-HNS Board of Governors, of which he is chair, has asked the Women in Otolaryngology Committee to join with full committee status and representation so that young female physicians can maintain a greater role in organized otolaryngology.
Mentoring becomes even more important as women enter academia, said Dr. Kendall, who believes mentoring is lacking for female otolaryngology faculty. “I’m not advocating preference,” she said, “but women residents and junior faculty should be encouraged by senior faculty by including them in research projects, suggesting them for committees, and the like.”
Dr. Bradford’s institution sponsored her participation in the one-year Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM), a core program of the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. She is currently one of four female chairs there and one of two female chairs of surgical departments at Ann Arbor.
But according to Linda Brodsky, MD, FACS, FAAP, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Pediatric Ear, Nose & Throat Associates in Buffalo, N.Y., mentorship alone will not fully address gender parity. A retired professor of otolaryngology and pediatrics at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Dr. Brodsky sued the university on grounds of gender discrimination. She is currently writing a book on gender discrimination in health care. “The issue is not getting to students early and being mentors to them,” she said. “The issue is: Are they feeling welcome?”
—Katherine Kendall, MD, FACS
Women and Surgery
Changing ingrained attitudes takes time, Dr. Woodson said, noting that even some of her female surgical colleagues initially believed that surgery was solely a male domain. “We discovered that we had an ‘aha!’ experience during medical school, when we realized that we could be surgeons, even though we’re women,” she said. Her own aha! moment came during her surgical residency, when she was first-assist in a pivotal case. The patient had been admitted to the [emergency department] with a gunshot wound to the heart. “One of my most vivid memories was sitting there, holding the patient’s heart, with the index finger of my right hand in the entry wound and my left hand on the exit wound. It didn’t matter that I was a woman. I was a person with hands who was there and jumped in. (The man recovered and was discharged from the hospital a week later.) Throughout her residency, Dr. Woodson noted that the other surgery residents and attendings—all men—“became very supportive when I was enthusiastic and showed that I could do the work.”