It’s Celebrate Women in Medicine month. And in honor of that, I wanted to respond to a post at doccartoon.blogspot.com. She quoted another article in which a presumably male doctor makes the point that women are ruining medicine by having children and therefore wasting a spot in med school that could better be occupied by a man or at least a sexless woman who doesn’t want kids.
I beg to differ.
I haven’t done studies on this, but can write about my own medical school class and my residency program and my life.
In our medical school class, 25% of the class was women. None dropped out of school to have a baby. Two students left school after the first exam: one man and one woman. The man left medicine altogether, and the woman studied epidemiology for a year and returned to school the following year. She graduated and went into anesthesiology. Another woman married a classmate and did her residency. She then took some time off to raise her small kids, one of the issues this gentleman wrote about. But she is back at work in a challenging field, oncology. Her husband, however, works in one of those “easy” fields “women like.”
All of the other women I could track down are engaged in medical practice and most have families. Those I could find seem successful in their careers. I did find one doctor who no longer appears to be practicing medicine but is using his knowledge as a medical consultant for political organizations. Yes, HIS. The only person I could find in my class who doesn’t practice medicine is a man. And he is doing something with his degree so I’m not in favor of judging him either. So, the number of people leaving medicine was equal, even though the ratio of men to women was 3:1. And both of the women returned to medicine, while neither of the men did.
Moving on to residency, in my class of 7, one woman left the program after a few months. I have no idea what happened to her. In the class below me, two women took time off to care for young kids. Also in the classes below me, two men left medicine to start a business together. The ratio was about 50:50 male to female in a group of 49 people.
In my life, I had kids after training. I took a couple of months off with each one for maternity leave and then went back to work full-time with no appreciable change in my referral base or practice. I had nannies, and a stay at home dad, and when he returned to work, my schedule and my nanny had settled down enough that life was pretty predictable for the kids. They also began to enter school, meaning that they didn’t need as much at home time. (People seem to forget all about school, and how kids go there, but that’s a whole other topic).
The thing is, not everyone can plan when they will fall in love. It’s not so easy to plan when you are going to have kids, either. Maybe you have fertility problems. Maybe you have medical problems. Maybe your marriage didn’t work out or your birth control failed or you went into the wrong field. Maybe you realized that medicine isn’t for you, but you didn’t know that until you tried it. My long point is that life happens to men and women, and it’s unpredictable. To expect the women, who have no choice but to bear the children, to forgo their careers because of this fact is ridiculous. As many ways as a life can go off track, are ways to adjust to the life’s distractions. We don’t need a limited, one-size fits all social prescription that “only women who don’t want kids should be doctors”. Any doctor worth his stethoscope knows that there is no one prescription that fits all.
- Forget Marcus Welby: Today’s docs want a real life (kansascity.com)