CSA Spotlight: Women in Medicine

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  • CSA
| Sep 28, 2020

As Women in Medicine Month comes to an end, the CSA would like to take this opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of the unique challenges of being a female physician anesthesiologist, and also to honor a few of the extraordinary women who have had a positive impact on our association and our specialty over the years.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, female residents are proportionately underrepresented in anesthesiology along with surgery, emergency medicine, and radiology. And within the CSA, less than a third of our members are women. We need to grow our ranks! At the same time, women have made extraordinary contributions to medicine as well as the anesthesia specialty, so we want to find ways to address challenges, reduce disparities, and positively impact the career trajectories of female physicians for decades to come. 

At this particular moment, we must also recognize the unusually tough circumstances for women physicians with young children who have been destabilized in different ways by the pandemic. A recent article, “Will women’s careers in medicine survive COVID-19?” by Karen Sibert, MD, FASA, highlighted how COVID-19 has unequally impacted women physicians – with many having to reduce their clinical hours or research time in order to care for children or manage distance learning. This could have both short and long-term effects on career progression. “The unhappy fact is that the careers of women in medicine who, like me, chose to have children, have depended on the army of other people — mostly women — who took care of those children. We relied on the nannies, the preschool teachers, the elementary and high school teachers, the after-school programs, and don’t forget the housekeepers. If they can’t work because their own children need to be watched and helped to learn from home, all of us are at economic risk. The scaffolding behind our careers was fragile all along, but it was too scary to think about it up to now.”

A recent open letter by female physician anesthesiologists to  the ASA  and published online in the ASA Monitor, issued “ A Call for Action, A Call for Solidarity” noted: “In recent years, medicine in general, and anesthesiology specifically, have seen a significant increase in the clinical and scientific contributions from female physicians. These advances have been hard-fought and are of tremendous benefit to our field and our patients. Numerous studies demonstrate the advantages of a diverse workforce, and specifically, an emerging body of evidence identifies concrete benefits that women physicians create for their patients and colleagues. Although traditional domestic gender roles have shifted during this time, the achievements of female physicians have largely been accomplished while multitasking in their roles as spouses, mothers, daughters and household managers.” This letter was also turned into a  petition on change.org.

There  is also a proposed resolution  (675-1.2 in the Professional Affairs packet) for consideration by the ASA HOD highlighting specific ideas and principles to rethink the way we support women, and working parents in general, in anesthesiology and its subspecialties, and to create a more sustainable model for personal and professional balance among our workforce. We encourage you to look at the resolution and submit comments on it to the Professional Affairs Reference Committee

CSA and ASA also need more information. We encourage more research and the collection of data on a national and state level by practice model, gender, flexibility, payor mix, leadership structure, and location to see what factors make a positive impact on the role of women in anesthesia and where we can advocate for improvement.

By supporting the needs of women physicians, providing targeted practice resources, and creating new flexible work models, we will improve wellness, satisfaction, longevity and loyalty to our sites and to the profession of anesthesiology. 

  • For information on the CSA Women in Anesthesia Committee, contact Sydney Thomson, MD.

  • For information on the ASA Committee on Women in Anesthesia, contact Linda Hertzberg, MD.

  • Check out the Women In White Coats blog. It is a forum for women in healthcare to discuss the issues that face us as a group. It is a place to advocate for change in improving inequalities in healthcare. It also is a place to provide mentorship to the next generation of women in white coats.

  • The American Medical Association has a COVID-19 resource guide specifically for women in medicine.

  • The AMA highlights policy, principles and resources on “Advancing Gender Equity in Medicine”.

  • There are also a series of resources by the American Medical Women’s Association on the Advancement of Women in Medicine.

We are also excited to share a series of brief profiles on some impressive women in CSA – highlighting challenges they faced rising to positions of leadership, offering their advice for other women anesthesiologists, and sharing their vision of the future for women in medicine.

This month, we celebrate all the women in medicine, and look forward to continued growth, success and support for our female physician anesthesiologist colleagues!

Sibert_resizeKaren Sibert, MD, FASA

Role in anesthesia today:

Today I'm a Clinical Professor of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine at UCLA. I specialize in anesthesia for high-risk adults, including thoracic (my favorite) and vascular cases. My other "hat" is that I'm the Director of Communications for the department, managing content for the website and editing our publications including news items and our twice-yearly e-magazine called Open Circuit. I also keep a sharp eye on our social media accounts, including Twitter (@UCLAAnes) and Instagram (ucla_anesthesiology). Most recently I coordinated our efforts to produce a new video highlighting our residency program. Look for it on YouTube very soon!

My experience in rising to a leadership level:

I started out my career in journalism when I graduated from college, working as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Reporting is great experience, but I had always wanted to go to medical school and finally I got up my nerve to apply. I began medical school at the age of 26 with a four-year-old daughter. The ability to write well is never something to regret. In fact, it had a lot to do with my becoming CSA President, because I got into leadership as the Chair of the Committee on Professional and Public Communication. I was recruited to the faculty at UCLA in 2016, after years in private practice, both because of my experience in thoracic anesthesiology and because the then-chair, Dr. Aman Mahajan, realized that communications expertise was going to become more and more important for every department. It's a key element of recruiting residents and faculty, as well as portraying our profession in a positive way to the outside world.

Challenges I had to overcome:

I think I've been very fortunate over the years in having wonderful professors and mentors who did nothing but encourage me, starting way back at Princeton, where I was part of the second entering class of women. I always say that I would definitely NOT be where I am in my life were it not for all the "old white men" who taught me to think critically, to write clearly, and to consider myself capable of anything. CSA also was very, very welcoming, even though I was late to the party because I didn't have time to become involved until my youngest child left for college. Way back in high school, I did have to overcome my feeling, stemming from life as a girl growing up in north Texas, that I wasn't smart enough to go to Princeton or to be a doctor. I guess I was wrong!

Tips for other women anesthesiologists: 

I've ruffled feathers before because I believe that in the long run you're happier in your career if you jump in with both feet, or "lean in", as Sheryl Sandberg would say. If you hold back and don't work all that much, you won't rise in leadership or seniority, and frankly your job could always be at risk in the event of a downturn. You'll never get the same satisfaction or reach the same level of competence and experience as someone who dedicates more time and works harder. That's true of anything – medicine, sports, playing an instrument! I actually think those people who worry most about "work-life balance", whatever that is, are at the highest risk of burnout. The opposite of work is leisure, and you do need SOME leisure to stay sane. But the opposite of life is death, not work. If your job is that unsatisfying, my advice would be to find another job.

Vision for the future of women in medicine:

We are being given more opportunities than ever in history, and many women are taking full advantage of them, reaching great positions in leadership, research, education, and clinical practice. But it's still hard to manage a demanding career in any field with young children, unless you have a spouse/partner who is willing to take on more of the childcare and household management. The pandemic is making life even harder. As I've just written about in the ASA Monitor, women are especially hard-hit by the closure of schools during the pandemic and by the need to help their children learn from home. The full economic impact of the pandemic probably hasn't truly been felt yet.  

selma calmesSelma Calmes, MD

Role in anesthesia today:

I'm retired, after nearly 50 years as an anesthesiologist. I still write about the history of women in anesthesiology and occasionally go to conferences, to keep up. I still miss anesthesia and still dream about doing cases and running the OR.

My experience in rising to a leadership level:

I would take positions that no one else wanted to do and deliver. This was hard when my children were little.

Challenges I had to overcome:

There were few women around when I started in anesthesia, and I was lonely! Also, I had polio as a child and had to deal with the Post-Polio Syndrome as I aged. There was also a difficult divorce from another MD., leading to help from a psychiatrist. He saved my life.

Tips for other women anesthesiologists: 

1)  There are lots of destructive people out there; get rid of them in your life. 

2)  Take time to reflect often on where you are in your life. Write this down in a journal/diary. Write your goals there and note how you're doing on them.

3)  Life presents unexpected opportunities; consider them and take a chance. Life is strange and can lead you to unexpected places. 

4)  Be considerate of people – say thank you, recognize them, etc. This sets the tone of daily work, develops great support over time and makes life easier. 

 5)  Have friends, not necessarily in medicine. It's hard to find enough time for this, but it's really worth it! My cluster of five friends has kept all of us going for at least 30 years; they have great wisdom that helps me "make it."

Vision for the future of women in medicine:

Having been around for so long, I'm not very optimistic that women will be accepted leaders in many settings. There are just too many difficult men and too much money to be made in medicine. It is possible to find/make a niche that works for you. Also, the issue of childcare responsibilities makes it difficult for us to move into leadership positions.

Linda_HertzbergLinda Hertzberg, MD, FASA

Role in anesthesia today:

I am basically retired from clinical work. In 2017 I left the practice where I had worked long term, and took on per diem work in several places including Stanford. Unfortunately, I broke my ankle in 2019 which made me take a break, and then COVID hit. At this stage for my own health and safety I’m not comfortable going back into clinical practice. However, I have continued to stay engaged in our specialty societies. I have been serving as the ASA Director for California, and have been Chair of the Committee on Women in Anesthesia for several years. I also serve on other ASA committees including the Committee on Professional Diversity, Committee on Young Physicians, and Committee on Governance Effectiveness & Efficiencies. I am a Past President of the CSA, previous Chair of the CSA Committee on Professional and Public Communications and Editor of Electronic Media, and currently serve on the Finance and Administration and Legislative Affairs Committees and the task forces on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and CSA Women in Anesthesia

My experience in rising to a leadership level:

You don’t get to a leadership position unless you have other people with you and behind you, encouraging you and mentoring you constantly. It’s a gradual climb. Beginning with medical school and residency at Stanford, I have had a lot of good role models throughout my career, people who made it seem like it was a real possibility to achieve leadership roles and make an impact through our specialty associations.

Challenges I had to overcome:

I think it is always harder for women to rise in leadership – no matter what setting you are in some people won’t take you seriously, or undermine you, or discount your ideas. For a long time in my private practice I was the only women. I felt that I had to continuously prove myself, prove that I’d take the same amount of call, prove that I should be valued the same as my male colleagues.

When I graduated med school in 1980, about 30 percent of my class at Stanford were women – but this was not common at the time. People didn’t see women physician anesthesiologists often – in fact, even the ASA brochures on anesthesiology only showed male doctors. Those brochures were passed out to patients in my private practice, and then often those patients would assume I was a nurse or assistant, rather than their doctor. That was something I pushed to change. Visuals set expectations, and reinforce both implicit and explicit bias. So, shining a light on female physicians is important – showing their pictures, calling them “Doctor,” acknowledging and using their titles and credentials they have earned. All of that matters.

Tips for other women anesthesiologists: 

Always stand up for yourself, and always stand up for what’s right for the patient. I’ve found that women often second guess their medical decision-making if their advice is not what others want to hear or expect to hear. Maybe you are deciding that the patient needs a fuller workup, or the surgical case should be deferred. Be confident in your training and medical knowledge – trust your instincts and be persistent with your decisions.

Also, even today women will unfortunately encounter comments or situations that make us uncomfortable. I’ve found it helpful to have a set of stock comebacks – some prepared responses that I can think of and deliver quickly in an awkward moment. It can be as simple as “Excuse me, I didn’t hear you correctly, could you please repeat that,” or the more direct “This conversation is making me uncomfortable.” Having a set of ready-to-go remarks that are appropriate and non-threatening can help defuse difficult situations.

As far as tips for rising into leadership positions – I agree with the sentiment that women can have it all, but can’t have it all at once. (credit – Karen Sibert) It’s impossible to have young children, a full-time career, take call, be medical staff president, volunteer in the PTA, and keep your family afloat all at the same time without something giving. I think it’s best to decide what is most important at different stages throughout your life and career trajectory, and know that it’s ok for certain elements to ebb and flow in their priority levels.

If you are looking to get involved in organized medicine, start small and start with what you enjoy. Find topics or projects or committees that you’re interested in so that the involvement feels rewarding rather than draining. Then when you are in those positions – show up, do the work you committed to, and do a good job. You’ll get noticed and begin to advance. Finding people who will mentor you or sponsor you will help move you forward on this journey even faster.

Vision for the future of women in medicine:

I feel strongly about the need for unified strategies to prevent female anesthesiologists from losing ground in our specialty due to the challenges from COVID-19. We need awareness and buy-in from ASA leadership, academic, institutional, employer-based, and private practice leadership on adoption of solutions such as creative childcare and schooling options, scheduling flexibility, job-sharing options, long-term job security with thoughtful allowances for necessary leave without career penalty, adjusted benefits, training, and peer support networks.

If some of these strategies are brought to reality, we could really see some positive changes bringing more flexibility for women in medicine. Additionally, I am pleased to see strong work by organizations like TIME’s UP Healthcare to address sexual harassment and gender discrimination in our workplaces.

Looking ahead, my vision is for more women in medicine, working in a respectful, inclusive, rewarding and equitable environments.

Linda Mason, MD, FASALinda_Mason

Role in anesthesia today:

ASA Immediate Past President, Professor of Anesthesiology and Pediatrics – Loma Linda University, Program Director of Pediatric Anesthesiology Fellowship Program, Director Pediatric Anesthesiology

My experience in rising to a leadership level:

My first leadership position was at my institution by getting involved in Medical Staff Committees and becoming a medical staff officer that led to being President of the Medical Staff. During this time I was Program Director for the Core Anesthesiology Program at Loma Linda and starting the Pediatric Anesthesiology Fellowship Program. I was also involved with the overall Graduate Medical Education Committee. My membership with the CSA allowed me to be appointed to the Educational Programs Division which I ultimately chaired, gaining skills and being a member of the BOD and Executive Committee. I moved into a leadership position as President-Elect and finally President of the CSA.

This involvement gave me the opportunity to be recognized at the ASA as Alternate Director and Director from California. My career goals in the ASA were fulfilled with my election as Assistant Secretary, Secretary, and 1st Vice President which put me in line to become the 2019 ASA President.

Challenges I had to overcome:

First, at my own institution it was a problem to get time out of my clinical practice to assume leadership positions within the institution and ultimately in the professional societies. Much of this was done on my own time and juggling roles was difficult. When I ran for ASA Assistant Secretary there were no women on the Administrative Council and there had been only one woman ASA President – Betty Stephenson. Fortunately, this has changed, and we will have three woman ASA Presidents in a row. 

Tips for other women anesthesiologists: 

  • Pick an area you are passionate about.

  • Say yes to committees at your institution and in the professional societies.

  • Show up.

  • Be a good listener.

  • Develop good communication skills, and give your input.

  • Be professional.

  • Be ready to move into a different position or arena – timing is everything.

  • Enjoy your role.

  • Don’t give up – if at first you don’t succeed try again – don’t lose your enthusiasm.

Vision for the future of women in medicine:

I think the future is bright! The ASA has a committee on Women in Anesthesia which was started by our own ASA Director from California, Linda Hertzberg, MD, FASA. With the ASA Small World communities project, communication will be made easier for committees. Also, there is more diversity and more opportunities for women to be part of ASA Committees than ever. I am sure women in ASA leadership positions will continue to expand in the future.

Patricia DaileyPatricia Dailey, MD

I have had many wonderful mentors, both men and women, who showed me the way to successfully become a physician, anesthesiologist, researcher, and leader, as well as wife and mother. I learned from them that you have to put in the grunt work to climb the ladder. You need to get noticed, take on projects, and serve on committees. At the same time, make sure you are enjoying, growing, and learning from what you are doing. Be sure to bring other women along on your climb up the ladder.  

Academic Medicine:

UCSF was my home from 1978-88. I started out in an OB/GYN residency. As a PGY1 in OB/Gyn, I was required to do a two-month anesthesia rotation. I decided to switch to anesthesia and met with the UCSF Anesthesia Dept Chair, Dr. William Hamilton. As was typical of the late 1970’s, he asked did my husband approve and who would raise the yet-to-be conceived children. 

After my anesthesia residency and an obstetric anesthesia fellowship with Dr. Sol Shnider, I joined the UCSF faculty and was based at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH). As an assistant professor, I spent 60% time in the operating room and 40% in the research lab with the sheep and monkeys, as well as clinical studies at UCSF and USC Medical Center. As part of the OB anesthesia research team, including Drs. Gershon Levinson, Sam Hughes, Mark Rosen, and Sol Shnider, we completed many of the early studies on spinal and epidural narcotics, cardiotoxicity of bupivacaine, neurotoxicity of chloroprocaine, to name a few. It was an exciting time to be in OB Anesthesia research. In 1986, I became Director of OB Anesthesia at SFGH.

Motherhood:

Juggling motherhood and academic demands wasn’t easy. In 1986, I became the first UCSF anesthesia faculty member to deliver a baby - a new phenomenon for the Department. Five weeks after my daughter’s birth, I was back attending at SFGH. A maternity leave policy didn’t exist then. Three years later, when I was in private practice, we adopted our son at birth. Again, there were no provisions for maternity leave, and I was back to work in a week. Even with an accommodating husband and plenty of childcare, challenges such as pumping breast milk between cases were always there. With the demands of academic medicine and my new family, I was stretched thin. So, I tried working part-time. However, it was still almost full-time work, for part-time pay.  

In 1988, I left UCSF and academic medicine behind and joined the anesthesiologists at Mills Memorial Hospital in San Mateo (now part of Sutter Health as Mills-Peninsula Health Services). I tried, once again, to work part-time. Of course, the clinical load increased, so I went back to full-time. My husband and I were part of the sandwich generation, and besides two young children, we had three parents with varying degrees of “brain failure” who also needed our attention. Fortunately, we lived less than a mile from the hospital, and my husband and I had the resources to hire many great people to keep our home and sanity intact. Our children recall many visits to the hospital to see me when I was on-call. They fondly remember nights when they shared the anesthesia call room with me while my husband was away. They loved the hospital bed with multiple buttons, the cafeteria food, and seeing the babies in the nursery.

Happily, with more men taking an active role in raising their children, the men are demanding more flexibility in their schedules with time to attend family activities. The women are also demanding this flexibility. This is something I could not obtain 30+ years ago.

Organized Medicine: 

Thanks to Drs. Sol Shnider, Larry Sullivan, and Caryl Guth, I became involved in organized medicine. I started out serving on various committees of the Society of Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology (SOAP), the ASA, and the CSA, and worked my way up. It was not easy to understand the workings of the ASA House of Delegates, reference committees, and caucuses. Eight years on the Board of Directors of SOAP led to serving on two ASA Task Forces that developed and revised the Practice Parameters for Obstetric Anesthesia. At the CSA, I served on various committees, as a district delegate, as a delegate to the ASA and, in 2002, as President of the CSA during which time Dr. Daniel Cole, past ASA President, was a remarkable mentor.

Private Practice: 

With my move to community practice, my focus shifted from organized medicine to medical staff leadership. I was on the Mills-Peninsula Hospital Board of Directors for 6 years and chaired the Credentials Committee for almost a decade. I served as a director of the local IPA (Mills-Peninsula Medical Group) for almost 15 years. These were great opportunities to interact with physicians in other specialties and administrators.  

Maternal Mortality

The six years (2007-13) I spent on the California Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Review Committee (https://www.cmqcc.org) were the most impactful. We met quarterly and reviewed the medical records of pregnancy-associated maternal deaths. From 2002-07, over 1000 California women died, from all causes, during childbirth or within one year of a live birth or fetal death. My kids understood that on weekends when I was reviewing these medical records, it was best to avoid me because I became very sad.

  • Cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of pregnancy-related death. Prior to the CA- PAMR review, and relying on death certificates alone, preeclampsia would have been identified as the leading cause of pregnancy-related death.

  • CA-PAMR confirmed that African American women died at three-to-four times the maternal mortality rate of women of other racial/ethnic groups, and as high as eight times the rate when deaths from pregnancy-related cardiovascular disease were considered.

  • In most cases, multiple patient, facility, and health care provider factors contributed to the pregnancy-related deaths. Common factors included co-morbidities, especially obesity and hypertension, delayed recognition of and response to clinical warning signs, and a lack of institutional readiness for obstetric emergencies.

Medical Liability:  

My last transition before retirement was from medical staff leadership to serving on the Claims Advisory Committee at NORCAL Mutual Insurance. At the time, NORCAL sought an anesthesiologist, someone with expertise in credentialing/underwriting, and a woman, to fill a board vacancy. I spent 14 years on the NORCAL Board of Directors. Medical liability insurance required a totally different skill set, which was an interesting and welcome challenge.

Retirement:

I retired as an anesthesiologist in 2016 after 35 years, but continue on the Mills-Peninsula Bioethics committee and the MPMG Quality Improvement Committee. Our children are in their 30’s, and I am finally catching up on my sleep.

dr. guth Head-Shoulder PictureCaryl J Guth, MD

First, please let me state that Times Have Changed! This is a “Voice of the Past” - so you may want to consider these remarks historically when compared to the current status. Comparatively, You Women Have Come a LONG Way , Baby, since my application to medical school in 1956, which antedated the Women’s Movement of the late 60s and 70s. 

My role in anesthesiology, in the past: 

I retired in 2000 from private practice at Mills-Peninsula Hospitals in Burlingame and San Mateo, CA, now a part of the Sutter Health Care System. At the time of retirement, I was a past Chair of the Anesthesiology Department and was then actively serving on the Hospital Health Systems Board of Directors. Representing anesthesiology, I had served as Chair of the last Specialty Society Committee of the CMA before it was recognized as a Section of the CMA delegation. Within CSA, I had been the Editor of the CSA Bulletin, Assistant Treasurer, President-Elect, President (’82-’83) and a Past President; I was also a long-standing delegate to the ASA where I had Chaired the Communication Committee and the initial Committee on Diversity.

As a widow, I retired to Winston-Salem, NC, where I am now considered an Emeritus of the Faculty of Wake Forest School of Medicine having served as an Instructor in Anesthesiology in 1965 straight out of residency from the University of Pennsylvania when times were definitely tougher. In 1997 I had accepted the Chair of Anesthesiology at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Santa Clara, CA, before I was recruited to private practice in San Mateo later that year and to where I spent the remainder of my active professional career. Since retirement at Wake Forest, I have influenced and supported research and the establishment of the Center for Integrative Medicine and the Integrative Medicine Clinic.

Experience in rising to a leadership level:

Perhaps this began in residency when I was encouraged by the Penn Professors to take ‘no guff’ from surgeons. I began to accept my critical authority and role as the patient’s advocate in the OR. That action begat respect from professors, colleagues, nurses, as well as surgeons. Even administration got wind of it. I was thrust into committee appointments which started me on a roll. For example, on one of my very first routine cases as a resident, I was making pre-op rounds for an in-patient scheduled for a routine hysterectomy due to a degenerating fibroid. After my chart review and patient discussion/exam, I was convinced that instead, she had an appendiceal abscess. Yet on the ward, I asked the surgeon if he had considered that possibility? He was outraged – after all I was only a new anesthesiology resident, while he was an experienced surgeon. Of course, after consulting with my anesthesiology supervisor, we prepared for the worst-case scenario, which it was to the embarrassment of that professor. From then on, I was emboldened to stand my ground and garnered respect for my decisions. 

As a mentor and colleague, pioneer Dr. Marjorie Noble, provided valuable encouragement. I also was fortunate that Dr. Gerry Nudell, CSA Past President, saw my leadership potential, and as CSA Nominating Committee Chair, surprisingly jump-started my unanticipated political path from CSA Assistant Treasurer to President-Elect.

Challenges I had to overcome: 

Historically speaking, my three personal interviews for application to medical school in 1956 were mainly focused on direct and shocking questions to intimidate me as a female. Now, of course, those type of questions are illegal. I was asked: Why was I trying to take the place of a male who would graduate and stay in the practice of medicine? When was I going to get married? How many children would I have? How could I possibly practice having children? Etc. etc.  etc.  Subsequently, I was not accepted into medical school that first year I had applied. But persistence prevailed the second time around – although the interview questions differed little, this time I had resolve and a deep-seated determination. 

Because of that unpleasant interview experience and to prove my worthiness, I became determined never to marry while in school or training. Subsequently, I married late in life while in private practice to a widower who’s youngest of three children was in high school. By that time, I was already entrenched into political activity and the malpractice crisis, and at the age of 34 I agonizingly decided to remain childless. Therefore, in training and throughout practice, I seemed to be the ‘obvious’ person for all major holiday calls.  

A couple obstacles worth mentioning came from the executives of the home offices of both CSA and ASA who were entrenched in the ‘past way of doing things.’ Fortunately, I sought the support of ‘male colleagues of influence’ who could clearly see my issues to help resolve matters. For example, converting the CSA office from manual to the digital age was a challenge to sell to the CSA CEO in 1982. But the Board passed my motion. Making the ASA bylaws gender-neutral was declared ‘too expensive’ by the ASA CEO from the podium of the House of Delegate in reacting to my Resolution. But ASA President, and CSA Past President, Dr. Peter McDermott, accomplished it the following year merely by a Presidential recommendation.  

Tips for other women anesthesiologists: 

When you start volunteering to attend and actively participate at department and medical staff meetings, your talents will be noted, which will snowball into leadership positions. Become familiar with Robert’s Rules of Parliamentary Procedure. If the organization with which you are working does not address the issues that need correction, then the concerned women and sympathetic men should organize to present your proposals to the group/organization. Otherwise, relationships and working conditions may break down and fester discontent. Until good working relations and conditions are satisfactory, there will continue to be a challenge to attract a larger percentage of women into the specialty.

Vision for the future of women in medicine:  

With more women entering medicine, it is even more critical to increase the number of women holding the reigns of our professional specialty. I wound up in anesthesiology only because the chief of surgery at my medical school told me outright in 1961 that ‘women had no place in surgery’. In other words, “Do not even bother to apply for a good surgical residency!” Thus, anesthesiology was my second choice to get into the OR so I could use my dexterity skills. Today, women have little if any such prejudicial problems in surgery, so anesthesiology should actively recruit/attract those women who have both dexterity and diagnostic skills. Further, the teaching and private practice call-programs must be modified to be more female-family friendly and conducive to long-term practice. Suggestions for consideration should come from organizational leadership to counter local negativity and favoritism. 

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