September is Women in Medicine Month. We are pleased to share the stories of some of our female physicians.
Since it is the last day of the month, we want to share two amazing women. First is Dr. Elizabeth Saunders who is double board-certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. She is also the Medicine-Pediatrics Residency Program Director here at Marshall Health.
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?
Throughout my life, so many strong females mentored me as I pursued my path towards medicine. During my training in both medical school and residency, I was educated by so many great female physicians associated with our medical school and community that positively impacted my journey and contributed to my education. Many of these women, I’m proud to now call friends. Additionally, I have two amazing sisters who have always been supportive and encouraging. The most influential woman in my life has been my mother. From a young age, she instilled a passion and deep appreciation for education in me and taught me that every experience in life was a lesson to reflect upon. From her, I learned to be strong, confident, independent, and how to set goals and then exceed them to be successful in all aspects of life. Her advocacy skills, willingness to help those in need, optimistic view of life, and overall resilience motivated me to persevere no matter what challenges I encountered. Most importantly she gifted me these skills, so I could pass these traits to my two girls so they will grow and learn to be independent woman, as well.
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?
Research has proven women are held to a higher professional standard, and gender disparities in the medical field occur due to various forms of bias. I applaud women striving to break these barriers in healthcare and appreciate leadership who invest in career advancement of woman and understanding the challenges women in medicine face. Leadership willing to institute structural change to promote a diverse workforce where female physicians feel more empowered and thrive professionally is vital, and I feel fortunate to be part of an institution that does just this. This becomes more important than ever as we are seeing a larger portion of women entering medical schools (around 50% today compared to around 10% in 1970) in the US.
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?
We must continue to challenge statements such as these to change the culture and biases women in medicine face. I usually respond by stating choosing a career in medicine can be physically and personally demanding and the path is an individual one, parent or not. My current position affords me a great work-life balance that has suited my personal needs for professional growth and development, but also provides me with adequate time to be present for my family. I would never agree that it’s impossible to be both a good physician and parent. If anything, I feel devoting time for your family and personal wellness allows you to be a more well-rounded, productive, and mindful physician.
What advice would you give to a young woman pursuing a career in medicine?
Find your herd and ask for help when you need it. When you begin your career as a resident or young attending, you are eager to prove your place, knowledge, and abilities, but by asking for help you demonstrate humility and maturity and will be respected for such by your colleagues and mentors.
Date Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2021