September is Women in Medicine Month. We are pleased to share the stories of some of our female physicians.
Dr. Amy “Ally” Roy is our first feature of the month! She is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, whose clinical interests include primary care and minimally invasive surgery.
A career in medicine is a collaborative experience, and support from others is incredibly important. Was there a female mentor in your life that helped you navigate any obstacles in your medical career?
I have had so much support through my training and career that it would be difficult to do them all justice. One person sticks out whom has been my most supportive mentor, advocate, and friend since I was a resident, and now as my practice partner. Dr. Amanda Pauley foresees many of the obstacles I have and will face, and she has a wealth of knowledge to navigate these challenges. She has not only helped to prepare me for my day-to-day clinical experiences, but she is always there to support me through board exams, unique or difficult patient scenarios, and distressing outcomes in medicine. I would suggest to anyone in their career to find a mentor with common interests, experiences, and someone who will give advice but also listen through the frustrating experiences that come with a career in medicine.
One of my favorite t-shirts I recently purchased says “empowered women empower women." There have often been times that I felt my path was made harder by other women. It seems that some have the mentality, “I had it rough, and I have to toughen you up." I hope women in medicine will help hold each other up more in the future rather than try to “toughen up” future generations of physicians. We have to set examples for future generations to be part of the solution rather than perpetuating behaviors that contribute to the problem. We need to be leaders for change.
Last year, #medbikini broke the internet when a journal article listed wearing a bikini on the beach on personal social media as unprofessional behavior. Do you feel that women are held to a different professionalism standard than men?
I remember reading the journal article referenced above and just being in shock that it not only was written, but that it also passed any screening process to make it into print. Women are undoubtedly held to a different professional standard. This is a fact, not a feeling or something to debate. Following #medbikini going viral was a really fun and empowering experience to watch. There have been (and continue to be) so many instances that I have witnessed, or been directly involved with, that have illustrated the sexist double standards in medicine. I can’t count how many times I have been called nurse or honey or by my first name in situations where male colleagues are called doctor. Once, I was at an event, and a lady told me that nurses were not supposed to be in that area, so I said I am a doctor. She said she didn’t know because of my scrubs. Every other person in the room had on scrubs.
Elizabeth Blackwell was the first female physician in the US. She was turned away from several schools until one allowed the all-male class to vote on her potential admission. As a joke, they decided to all vote yes. She responded by graduating first in her class. When I see the daily microaggressions directed toward many minorities and women I try to remind myself of Dr. Blackwell’s courage to stand up to those that hold others to differing standards. I am so proud to see people becoming more outspoken against the obvious double standards in medicine and society.
For those of you that have chosen to have children, do you ever feel that society (or even fellow colleagues) attempt to dictate that it is “impossible” to be both a good doctor and a good parent? If so, how do you handle this criticism in your own personal life, and how do you propose we navigate those wrongful judgements in the future?
I remember when I was a fourth-year medical student, that another student mentioned I must not want to have children because I decided to go into a surgical specialty known for long hours. That was not the first or last comment that was directed at my professional and home life being in direct conflict. It has taken me years to feel comfortable with my response to these comments. I would remind those in medicine that have or plan to have children that you have already demonstrated that you are able to do anything! Medical school and residency are difficult. If everyone could do it, they would. The example you set for your kids will teach them about not only hard work, but also about the importance of caring for others. Find your unique, individualized balance between home and work life, and do what’s right for your family.
What advice would you give to a young woman pursuing a career in medicine?
Find a great mentor, surround yourself with a support system, and find the courage to be yourself even when others question you or your choices for your personal life.
Date Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2021