Thursday, July 12, 2018

#MeToo in Medicine


Physicians are not exempt from sexual harassment. 

A recent on-line survey conducted by Medscape of 4151 practicing physicians and residents in the United States asked respondents about specific harassing behavior they have experienced, witnessed, or been accused of within the past 3 years.  Since definitions and perceptions about sexual harassment or abuse can differ among individuals, specific behaviors were delineated.

The results from Medscape's Sexual Harassment of Physicians Report 2018 show that 7% of physicians said they experienced some form of sexual harassment within the 3 year timeframe with ~ 40% occurring in 35-44 year olds.  The majority of victims (55%) did not say anything or confront the perpetrator, and only 40% reported the behavior to a colleague, supervisor, department head, HR, security or police for fear of being accused of over-reacting, inaction or retaliation. the outcomes of reporting, it’s no  wonder that sexual harassment is under-reported.  Less than 25% of incidents reported resulted in an investigation, and more than 50% of respondents stated that the incident was trivialized or resulted in some form of perceived retaliation.  

Most investigations led to exoneration of the accused perpetrator; intentions were 'misunderstood' in 40% of cases.  No action was taken in 37% of cases.
Sexual harassment led ~22% of respondents to consider quitting their job and 14% actually did quit. 


Although effective training can reduce workplace harassment, much of it has been focused on avoiding legal liability – not changing the culture and preventing or stopping harassment.   In order to be effective, change must start at the top, and training must be tailored to the specific work environment and employees.  It’s time to act.  No, it’s over due.
                                                                                                                                         Judith Wolf, MD
Source: Leslie Kane.  Sexual Harassment of Physicians: Report 2018.  Medscape June 13, 2018






















Thursday, July 5, 2018

O Canada…


Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer featured a piece on Hulu’s hit adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel “The Handmaid’s Tale”.  The series describes a rigid authoritarian regime known as the Republic of Gilead (no relation to the pharmaceutical giant) controlled by male religious extremists following a coup d'etat against the United States government.

In this reactionary patriarchal society in which laws and customs are based on a very literal, fundamentalist interpretation of the Christian Bible, women have no rights - to education, employment, property, political position or their own bodies.  Fear and brutality are used to maintain power.  Only a lucky few escape to Canada. 

Agonizingly depressing, Gilead is reminiscent of other societies in the world where women and minorities are severely oppressed.  But can it easily be dismissed as inconceivable in a US of the future?  Given the current ideological divide in our country, the concentration of wealth and power in a small segment of the population, and a strongman president who cannot tolerate being challenged, could our basic freedoms one day potentially be in serious jeopardy? 

History warns us never to assume “it could never happen here”.                                                                                       So, is it time to pack for Canada … while we still can?


                                                                                                                                Judith Wolf, MD



Thursday, June 28, 2018

Is Roe v. Wade at Risk?

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s impending retirement may have serious implications for legal abortion in the US.  Although Kennedy was a staunch conservative, when it came to certain social issues like abortion and LGBTQ rights, he was less predictable and more liberal.  Therefore, if the next appointee cements a conservative block, the court could potentially vote to overturn existing laws like Roe v. Wade – another sobering reminder that “elections have real consequences”.    

But should we assume that all of the conservative justices on the court will vote to overturn the landmark decision?  Chief Justice John Roberts and Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch have both openly stated that "Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land” – a precedent of the court entitled to “stand by things decided”.  Whether we will ever reach the point where these declarations will be tested remains to be seen.  What is certain is that women’s rights remains a contentious issue more than 45 years after Roe v. Wade.  Make sure your voice is heard.  Vote.

 Judith Wolf, MD                                                                                                                                                                      Associate Director, WHEP