Dr. Gloria Wu Podcast: Truths, Lies, & Statistics in Medicine
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Gloria Wu, MD:
Hello, this is Dr. Gloria Wu. Women now make up 50% of the medical school class, and unfortunately, they’re not 50% of women in academic leadership positions or large organizations. In the United States, 19% are tenured professors, 12% are department chairs, 11% are medical school deans. For the United Kingdom, 13% are clinical professors, and less than 25% are medical directors of the National Health Service. In the United Kingdom, for certain awards at the bronze level, 32% of women apply. For the silver level, 24% of the applicants are women, and the gold level, 17%. So obviously more men are applying. Do the women not apply because they feel they’re not qualified? Or are the applications inherently somehow not good for women applicants in the sense that it doesn’t showcase their best work?
Now, what about women and men in medicine? It used to be thought, of all the medical literature, it’s usually reported so many men are in this profession, so many women are in this profession in medicine, so it was very black and white, men versus women. The World Health Organization defines us as gender. Gender is multifaceted. It has intersectional components such as role, behavior, activities, attributes, opportunities that society considers appropriate for boys and girls, and men and women. So these gender multifaceted attributes define what we think what men and women should do. So it is very interesting that when we think about gender inequity, it’s largely built on this foundation of the socially constructed gender norms, roles, and relationships. So it’s not surprising that these society constructed, long-held beliefs of gender norms, roles, and relations are really inculcated when the child is very young. So we carry these roles and gender norms with us throughout our lives. And so if you’re a little boy and you’re surrounded by other little boys and you grow up to be a doctor, you really don’t think about women as your peers.
So these are interesting things that we think about as we in medicine, we as women, want to join our male colleagues in large organizations in fighting for patient rights, for creating a more compassionate patient care system. Our voice is necessary. So how do we combat this? A famous Harvard Business School, Professor Rosa Beth Kanter says these are her rules. She’s been very instrumental in defining what are considered tokens or tokenism in the boardroom and the concepts of the importance of women in corporate boardrooms.
Her rules are, number one, show up. Show up and show that you care, you’re present, your voice matters. Number two, speak up to add to the data, add to the discussion. If you have nothing to add, reframe the question so that people can think about it in a new way. Three, look up. Look up to the mission statement, the big picture that we’re here for patient care. When we were young, third-year medical students and we followed our senior surgeons to the operating room to watch them repair a gunshot wound, clearly the mission was to save that person’s life, to take out the bullets. And it was exciting. It was life and death. And when we were young medical students and we watched the first person collapse, and our senior mentors, senior medical admitting resident, would be saving the person’s life doing CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, we were impressed that the life could be saved.
So forever, our images are we’re saving lives. So our mission, obviously, is to save patient lives. As technology has improved, medications have improved, we’re at the frontiers of modern medicine in the 21st century, we still want to deliver compassionate patient care with fairness, with compassion, with empathy. And really, all of our voices need to be heard in making this patient-centered care system work for all of us. So thank you for joining us. If you like this, join us again. Thank you. This is Dr. Gloria Wu. Thank you.