Thursday, December 15, 2016

Professionalism: More than Skin Deep

A recent email I received from a medical community website featured a collection of articles about women in medicine. The first one I read was titled “Does Makeup Matter?” and it discussed the pressures of keeping up appearances in the workplace and how women who wear makeup are perceived (apparently more dominant by other women and more prestigious by men). While the contents of the article are not groundbreaking, what struck me was the overwhelming response readers had to it. Most articles on the site spark little conversation – maybe a comment or two – but in this case the discussion goes on for pages, with contributions from female physicians of all ages and all fields. Some argue that makeup is a waste of time or distraction for women who have such busy and demanding jobs. Others believe that taking the time to look one’s best is a sign of respect to patients. Despite differing opinions, many can agree that wearing makeup is a personal choice and that a woman’s competency as a physician should not be judged by her appearance. This seems obvious, and slightly ridiculous to have to state, but I think this discussion represents the greater inequalities and struggles women in medicine are still facing.

Some women I’ve talked to feel they have never seen or experienced differential treatment in a
clinical setting. Unfortunately, I think they may be in the minority. I hear too many stories of
inappropriate comments made to women on rounds, or patients wanting to hear from male interns
rather than female attendings. As a student, I have been addressed as “nurse” on a regular basis by
patients. I have been told by classmates that I am graded more leniently or pimped less on the
wards because the male attending “likes girls better.” I have even watched a male patient tell a
room of female doctors that he thinks his pulmonologist is smart “despite being a woman.”


At my most recent residency interview I asked a resident about her experience finding mentorship
and research opportunities in GI, the fellowship into which she recently matched. She told me that
she struggled a lot during her intern year because all of the GI faculty members at the program
were male and it was hard for her to “break in.” We discussed how many specialties in medicine are
still so male- dominated and difficult hard it can be to find female mentors. It made me think
about how grateful I am for Drexel’s WHEP and how important it is that institutions have similar
outlets for women in medicine to connect.


As in the rest of the country, sexism in medicine is nowhere near dead. The fact that women are
debating how they are perceived when they wear makeup to the office or the hospital is clear
evidence. I find solace in groups that allow women in medicine to get together and provide support
for one another. However, I continue to hope that in a field that is composed of 50% women, the
necessity for such support will eventually lessen.
https://www.doximity.com/doc_news/v2/entries/5630423
                                                                                           
                                                                                                                            Alex Pogosky
                                                                                                                            DUCOM 2017

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