Women at Work: Underrepresentation in Interventional Radiology and Surgical Fields

by Monica Matsumoto, MS4, Teresa Jiang, MS3, and Olivia Schultz, MS1

University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine students Teresa Jiang, Monica Matsumoto, and Olivia Schultz hosted the symposium, “Women at Work (WaW): Underrepresentation in Interventional Radiology and Surgical Fields,” on February 16, 2019, at the Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery. They were inspired to organize this event based on their collective desire to promote female representation in medicine, as well as a recognition of the need for this type of multi-disciplinary forum.

WaW was a half-day event for students to learn from faculty and residents in fields where women are traditionally underrepresented. The event was made free-of-charge thanks to the generous sponsorship of Boston Scientific, UChicago’s Graduate Council, UChicago Medicine Department of Radiology, and the Pritzker School of Medicine, including contributions from following student interest groups: interventional radiology, vascular surgery, trauma surgery, pediatric surgery, orthopedic surgery, ENT, and Women in Medicine. The event included: (a) a keynote address by Aneesa Majid, MD, MBA, an interventional radiologist and entrepreneur; (b) a panel of resident physicians; (c) a panel of attending physicians; and (d) a workshop on negotiation skills. WaW ended with a lunch hour for medical students to network with physicians. A total of 43 female medical students, undergraduates, and residents from Chicago-area institutions attended the symposium.

The resident physician panelists provided valuable advice that drew from their personal experiences as trainees. The panelists, all from UChicago Medicine, were: Laura Humphries, MD (PGY-6, plastic surgery), Melanie Adamsky, MD (PGY-5, urology), Olga Kantor, MD (PGY-5, general surgery), Lea Hoefer, MD (PGY-1, general surgery), and Ashley Altman, MD (PGY- 5, radiology). The residents encouraged students to approach their training with the goal of being the best physician they can be, rather than focusing on being a female in a male-dominated field. Several residents noted that they do not have a female mentor in their field, and although not prohibitory to their careers thus far, would definitely be welcome if accessible. Lastly, several residents similarly noted challenges in self-confidence and identity formation during residency, especially as their roles on the team (and at home) changed from year to year.

The panel of attending physicians comprised UChicago Medicine faculty and highlighted the perspectives of women at a different point in their careers and lives. The panel featured Priya Prakash, MD (trauma surgery), Jessica Donington, MD (cardiothoracic surgery), Sarah Faris, MD (urology), and Chelsey Dorsey, MD (vascular surgery). It was particularly impactful to hear about the experiences of each panelist in creating balance between their personal and professional aspirations throughout their careers. They emphasized the importance of surrounding yourself with people who support your goals since women in these fields often have to work against unconscious bias from their colleagues. Several faculty panelists also noted that being in a minority group united them as a community, making it even more rewarding to mentor other women in their field through events like WaW.

Lisa Vinci, MD, MA led the negotiation workshop, which emphasized the importance of practicing everyday negotiations to prepare for more critical settings such as a job promotion or salary raise. The workshop then transitioned to small-group role-playing activities that simulated common negotiations for medical trainees, such as publication authorship, research expectations, and clinical training opportunities.

The symposium concluded with a catered lunch as an opportunity for attendees to have personal conversations with panelists. In the post-symposium feedback, attendees considered this hour to be an effective networking opportunity, and a meaningful close to the day. All (n=17) of the respondents on the post-symposium evaluation said they would recommend the event to others. Fifty-nine percent (n=10) said their participation increased their likelihood of pursuing a medical specialty in which women are underrepresented, while the remaining 41% (n=7) said it had no effect. In summary, the WaW symposium was an exciting and well-received event that filled a need for increased female mentorship in underrepresented fields and cross-disciplinary discussion. Teresa, Monica, and Olivia look forward to future opportunities to hold more events of this kind, which would not have been possible without the sponsors’ contributions, as well as the support from UChicago Medicine residents and faculty who generously shared their time and stories.