September is Women in Medicine Month. We are pleased to share the stories of some of our female physicians.
Today's feature is Dr. Andrea Lauffer! She is double board-certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.
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?
Navigating a career in medicine can be challenging. It is vitally important to identify, as you start your career, who is part of your village. The collaborative experience begins with your friends and family. These individuals help support you through the challenges and stresses of medical training and beyond.
Mentorship is tremendously important no matter what season of life you are experiencing. I have had multiple female mentors during my medical career. First and foremost, I always have had the support of my mother, as I began to pursue my career in medicine. She has always encouraged me to reach for the stars and go beyond my perceived potential. Once I found myself in medicine, I met some incredibly talented and gifted female physicians from all facets of life. I value and appreciate what each brings to the field of medicine. Even as an attending physician, I do not underestimate the importance of continued mentorship. Having a trusted female mentor to advise on navigating life while helping you reach your career goals is such an invaluable resource.
Last year the #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?
There has been and continues to be a struggle for women to be viewed equally on a professional level compared to their male counterparts. Thankfully, there is recognition of this unbalance now more than ever, and opportunities for women to advance in their chosen field are growing. Just within our institution, our CEO of Marshall Health is a woman. We have multiple chairs and program directors within departments that are women. Many female leaders within the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine are heading influential committees. These women are paving the way for future generations of female physicians to become leaders. That is amazing progress! I am thankful to be working in a new era where the value of female leadership is being recognized and celebrated.
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?
Having children is a deeply personal decision and experience. There can be a certain unspoken standard that you can’t be a good physician and be a good mother. As a med-peds physician, I have the unique experience that my chosen specialty made me a better mother, and being a mother made me better in my specialty. There will always be challenges with balancing career and family, but it is not impossible. Women who want children should not be deterred from a career in medicine. It is important that women surround themselves with a support system to help them reach their personal and professional goals. There will always be critics, but we must choose to rise above any negativity and celebrate that women can be successful both as physicians and as mothers.
What advice would you give to a young woman pursuing a career in medicine?
Medicine is an exciting and rewarding career. There will definitely be challenges along the way. First and foremost, surround yourself with positive people who will uplift you and support you. There is no place in your life for anyone who underestimates your potential or dampens your dreams. Recognize and remove negativity should it make its way to you. As you choose to balance your work life with marriage, singlehood, motherhood, or whatever else life may have in store for you, know there are many female physicians who have faced similar challenges. Seek a trusted mentor and lean on their guidance. Finally, be the one that loudly applauds when the other girl wins. Medicine and career advancement can be competitive. Sometimes we find ourselves ahead, and sometimes we are behind. Nevertheless, we need to always celebrate each other’s victories and be an encouragement for our fellow female physician colleagues.
Date Posted: Tuesday, September 7, 2021