Author Archives: stfmguestblogger

The Same Old Problems That Each Generation of Women Face in Medicine

Written by the Women in Family Medicine Collaborative

Recent survey data shows that many of the problems faced by members of the Women in Family Medicine Collaborative are the same old problems that recur for each generation.

Members of the collaborative report that their top concern is addressing disparities for women in medicine, followed by negotiations and salaries, and power and control in the workplace. These self-reported concerns are backed up by numbers. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that 47% of entering medical students are women, but just 16% of women are in dean positions, 15% are in department chair positions, and 21% are in full professor positions. Only 32% of full-time women faculty are associate professors or higher, compared with 52% of full-time men faculty. Issues of control and negotiation naturally follow from these kinds of power differentials.

The STFM Women’s Collaborative took this information and presented a multigenerational panel at the STFM 50th Annual Spring Conference. The panel helped to frame, contextualize, and put perspective on the problems we encounter today and have been encountering for years.

Dr Candib found a clipping from the late 1980s addressing concerns about negotiation specific to physicians practicing part-time. The concerns highlighted—how to get recognized for call and how to negotiate benefits—would be very familiar to part-time doctors today. One 1989 panel addressed women’s leadership styles, and another spoke to role conflict and empowerment issues for women in academic family medicine. Even after years of working on these problems, we still face them.

It became clear from the discussion that these issues are not unique to the Women’s Collaborative. Dr Candib showed a 6-minute interview with Dr Jeannette South-Paul recollecting her early experiences as a black woman in family medicine and detailing the different choices that women of color may make in their work within STFM. Racism, elitism, and homophobia were the key topics in that same STFM annual conference in 1989. Audience members and panelists connected content from the panel discussion this year to other talks they had attended. Other groups share the struggles of the Women’s Collaborative: struggles for equality, against bias, and for representation in leadership.  

Though we have a feminist perspective on these struggles, we do not own the solutions to them. Too many of the annual conference discussions happened as ours did: in a conference room big enough for 40, with another discussion about a similar struggle happening 90 minutes later in another conference room with 40 different people.

Incoming STFM President Stephen Wilson encouraged us to put aside our labels at the closing plenary session. Many of us embrace our labels, but we acknowledge that we share common goals. The Women’s Collaborative had good success at collaborating internally to produce the panel, and next, we hope to collaborate externally. We would like to join efforts with other groups doing mutual work to promote common goals. 

The Women’s Collaborative will work to address the leadership needs of women in STFM and within academic family medicine during this academic year. We will actively seek out other STFM collaborations or individuals who share these goals. Where one voice or one face experiences less bias, we all benefit.

My Gratitude: Poetry and Prose Celebrating STFM’s Anniversary

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Colleen T. Fogarty, MD, MSc

When Mary Theobald, the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Vice President of Communications and Programs, asked me to write a blog in celebration of the 50th anniversary of STFM, I was happy to oblige.

This month marks my 25th anniversary of medical school graduation and entering family medicine residency, so my career represents the second half of STFM’s lifespan!

STFM has been part of my professional development since my early clinical training. As a resident, I attended my first STFM meeting, the Families in Health Conference at Amelia Island. I will never forget the warm welcome I received from everyone I met there including senior colleagues who were well known in the field. My experience at the Families and Health meeting hooked me and I attended the annual meeting later in residency. STFM rapidly became my professional home and solidified my nascent desire to enter a career in academic family medicine. Even in my first practice after residency, as a full-time family physician in a rural community health center, I stayed involved and attended STFM meetings several times.

I have made many important professional relationships over the years through my involvement with STFM. These would not have been possible without this network of accomplished national colleagues. In 2004, I served as the conference chair for the 24th Annual Conference on Families in Health and have been a mentor and served on the steering committee for the Behavioral Health/Family Systems Educator Fellowship over the last several years.

As a member of the 50th Anniversary Task Force, I was once again privileged to meet exciting colleagues both from across the country and the life span of family medicine educators. At the recent annual meeting, during a reflective writing preconference that I was facilitating, I experimented with writings for this blog.

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The Great Family Doctors

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Adam Lake, MD

Precepting is a sieve that catches all the most complex pieces of the clinic day. A man with liver failure, who is somehow still alive, is present for a hospital transition of care visit with our nurse practitioner.  He is dying, and while no one has yet told him this, it could be surmised from a quick glance at his chart.

The resident presents a patient with a history of opiate addiction who has a severe ankle sprain, and only the most tenuous employment. The resident wants to know if the risk of relapse is higher if we prescribe an opioid or if the patient loses their job.

Another resident would like to order a patient’s sixth CT scan of the abdomen this year for their non-specific chronic abdominal pain. The treatment here is in first taking a history of the resident’s fears, and in assessing the therapeutic value of another CT.

I am fortunate to rarely precept alone. Our clinic is large enough that I get to eavesdrop on many of the preceptors who trained me. I look up to them as mentors. I see them as The Great Family Doctors, with whom I hope to someday be held in similar esteem. What makes for a Great Family Doctor?

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