What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” Every morning, Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, president and dean of the Atlanta-based Morehouse School of Medicine, starts her day with this inspiring quote, attributed to various sources. Then, she looks for facts and figures to help her achieve her goals.
Explore this issue:November 2018
“I want you to understand that data matters. I always make decisions based on data, particularly when you talk about mission alignment,” said Dr. Montgomery Rice, the keynote speaker at the Women in Otolaryngology (WIO) General Assembly, held October 8, 2018, in Atlanta at the AAO-HNS Annual Meeting. She discussed topics ranging from mentorship to compensation equality to work-life balance for women physicians. The room was packed with mostly women otolaryngologists, along with a handful of male colleagues.
A reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist, Dr. Montgomery Rice’s goals include finding ways to achieve Morehouse’s mission to advance health equity for people living in underserved communities. The medical school has an intentionally diverse enrollment, as minority medical students are more likely to go back to practice in underserved communities, she said. “We must diversify the healthcare workforce.”
Education As Equalizer
Education is a great equalizing force, said Dr. Montgomery Rice. Although women’s medical education has been around in the United States since the 19th Century, “we haven’t quite removed all the barriers.” She cited the Medscape Physician Compensation Report from 2017, which showed that otolaryngologists are among the top five specialties for compensation, and that 92% of otolaryngologists surveyed said that, if starting over, they would choose their specialty again (Available at: medscape.com/sites/public/physician-comp/2017). Diversity in medicine is one of the challenges not yet overcome, but slightly more than 50% of new matriculants in U.S. medical schools in 2017 were women, she said. Data from 1963 show that only 0.3% of U.S. otolaryngologists were women, a percentage that rose to 14.5% by 2014.
“There is still room for growth and potential here. Only 2.3% of otolaryngology residents, for example, are African Americans,” she noted. African American females outnumber males by three to one in applications to U.S. medical schools since 1978, she said. Still, when controlling for all factors, women otolaryngologists still make less money than their male colleagues.
Equality vs. Equity
Like any other professional, women physicians seek to reach their optimal potential and to be treated fairly, said Dr. Montgomery Rice. “How do you have conversations with others as you build your toolkit to promote change? I always say that I am a scientist first,” she said. “As we work to close the gaps, how do we ensure that each of us reaches the optimal level of experience so we can reach our potential?”