September is Women in Medicine Month. We are pleased to share the stories of some of our female physicians.
Dr. Nancy Norton is a member of the Pathology Department here at Marshall Health and has a special interest in clinical pathology education.
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?
No, I didn't have a female mentor. There were some women physicians whom I admired, and I think they treated me very fairly and occasionally gave me some guidance and understanding. I was closer to their age than most of the med students or residents. As a med student, I started a professional relationship with my research mentor, which has lasted more than twenty years. He has given me career advice at times, but he is that other sex.
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?
Absolutely, I think women are often held to a different standard than men. It often seems obvious that laws and policies would be different if we lived in a culture that respected and valued women, recognized that women have as much to contribute as men, and that expected women to be successful in their professional lives.
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 already had children when I started med school. Even in the 90's, nobody dared to criticize a working woman because she was also a mother - except perhaps my father-in-law. I think being a parent makes me a better doctor, and helps me relate to many of my patients and students. I also think that it was good for my daughters to see me pursue a professional career. However, being a working mother is not without guilt. When my daughters were in their thirties, I finally asked one of them if she forgave me for going to medical school (I was a medical student from the time my daughters were 7 to 10 and a resident from when they were 11 to 14). She said, "I forgave you a long time ago." Then, I asked my other daughter and she said, "I never thought I had anything to forgive."
What advice would you give to a young woman pursuing a career in medicine?
It seems to me that each generation peels away some of the obstacles that have interfered with women being successful and appropriately compensated for that success. This allows the next generation to see the next layer of obstacles more clearly. I honestly think that young women can see through the bull and identify inequalities that weren't always so obvious to the women of my generation. My advice: value yourself and don’t compromise on your opinion of what you are worth. Advocate for yourself. Cut yourself some slack.
Date Posted: Thursday, September 9, 2021