Medical Economics, March 2021
Between ever-changing regulatory requirements, more time spent interacting with electronic health records systems than with patients, and a lack of work/life balance, physicians are burning out at an unprecedented rate. Yet there is hope that the next generation of women physicians can address many of the systemic issues that currently plague the field of medicine.
But the question remains: will they be given the opportunity to do so?
When Diane Birnbaumer, MD, FACEP, emeritus professor in the department of emergency medicine at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, was training to be a physician more than 30 years ago, she did a clinical rotation in otolaryngology with an older, well-established male surgeon. When she finished the rotation, the surgeon complimented Birnbaumer on her abilities, but also told her he wasn’t going to give her a good evaluation.
“I immediately asked, ‘Why?’” she says. “He told me, ‘Women will ruin medicine. All you want to do is come into medicine and make it part-time. Women want other things. Medicine just isn’t your passion the same way it is for [male physicians].’”
It would be easy to say that such a conversation is a relic of a time long gone, when men dominated the field of medicine and women were fighting just for the opportunity to show what they might bring to the examining room. After all, today about one-third of practicing physicians are women. And most of those, like Birnbaumer, have worked hard to advance in their careers.