President’s Message

Posted on Oct 1, 2020 in President's Message | 0 comments

The recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “the notorious RBG” made me reflect and explore further the efforts that she made on behalf of gender equality.  She graduated at the top of her class at Columbia, but found it difficult to obtain clerkships and positions in law firms after graduation, largely due to pervasive gender discrimination in the 1950’s. When she finally secured a professorship at Rutgers, she realized that she was not working in a level playing field, and was, along with the rest of the female faculty, grossly underpaid compared to her male peers; through collective action she was able to subsequently achieve pay parity. She co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU and argued many landmark cases before the Supreme Court, with the position of defending the gender rights of both men and women. As a Supreme Court Justice, she wrote the majority opinion in United States vs Virginia Military Institute in 1996, in which it was the decision of the court that a state supported university could not exclude women on the basis of sex.

So how is this relevant to us today and as a medical staff?

Medicine historically has been a male dominated profession, but the last twenty years have seen a rise in the number of female medical school graduates in the US, with 2017-2018 finally seeing more women than men become physicians.  At the Summit Campus, our current breakdown shows that 80% of our allied health professionals are women, but for physicians, only 32.4% of the medical staff are women.

We have been fortunate to have strong female leadership for the hospital and in our medical staff. Our two prior medical staff presidents and our current vice president are women. Our current Chief Medical Executive is a woman and our regional and organization CEOs are both women. Despite this, I have heard from physician colleagues and witnessed on my own, the bias that exists in treatment of female physicians. This has been supported by several studies[1][2][3] within training programs, and implicit gender bias has wide ranging effects in diminishing the morale of providers and impeding effective patient care.

What is implicit bias? It is subconscious and a product of our cultural norms that cause us to assign certain values and behaviors to certain people; a cognitive shortcut if you will. It is not sexism or racism, but it can lead to pervasive mistreatment of a group of people. Being aware of implicit biases and calling them out when you see them, or recognizing them internally, is a good start to treating others fairly and with compassion and empathy.

Our recent COVID 19 pulse survey showed that as a medical staff, more than 40% of female respondents reported feeling burned out, as opposed to roughly 20% of males. While we are still in the process of trying to discern the reasons for this, the clear difference in perceptions of burnout between the two is quite alarming and will need to be addressed.

 As medical staff president, I want you to know that I strongly support education on implicit bias and will work with administration to help change the climate that continues to favor men over women.

Jeff Chen MD, MPH, FACEP
Chief of Staff, ABSMC Summit Campus

[1] Brucker K, Whitaker N, Morgan ZS, Pettit K, Thinnes E, Banta AM, Palmer MM. Exploring Gender Bias in Nursing Evaluations of Emergency Medicine Residents. Acad Emerg Med. 2019 Nov;26(11):1266-1272. doi: 10.1111/acem.13843. Epub 2019 Sep 23. PMID: 31373086.

[2] Galvin SL, Parlier AB, Martino E, Scott KR, Buys E. Gender Bias in Nurse Evaluations of Residents in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Oct;126 Suppl 4:7S-12S. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000001044. PMID: 26375558.

[3] Klein R, Julian KA, Snyder ED, Koch J, Ufere NN, Volerman A, Vandenberg AE, Schaeffer S, Palamara K; From the Gender Equity in Medicine (GEM) workgroup. Gender Bias in Resident Assessment in Graduate Medical Education: Review of the Literature. J Gen Intern Med. 2019 May;34(5):712-719. doi: 10.1007/s11606-019-04884-0. PMID: 30993611; PMCID: PMC6502889.

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