Shannon Christian

In this weekly blog, staff reporter Shannon Christian writes about the myths of healthcare and how it impacts students.

Dr. Germ: Dr. Mom

“It makes sense to be a nurse when you’re a woman, you can’t start a family until you’re 30 if you go the physician route.” 

Last week one of my classmates mentioned that a physician she had been following had advised her to pursue nursing if having a family was something that she prioritized. Her older sister is graduating medical school this year, and my classmate also plans on pursuing a doctorate degree just like her sister; she’s only ever considered being a physician as her future career. 

In many hospitals, the more senior members of the care teams; physicians and surgeons are males. Currently, women comprise 37% of the population of physicians in the United States. Divided by specialty, the number of practicing physicians that are women is significantly lower than male physicians. Throughout my clinical experience, I’ve only worked with three female doctors, the rest being men. In a field so disproportionately composed of men, why does it seem like women aren’t being encouraged to pursue a doctorate in medicine? . 

Medical school can be 8-12 years of post-undergraduate education, which can be a deterrent for many students, but the pressure on women is built on the fact that it places strain on the many classic factors people associate with those women. This includes starting and raising a family, which would be extremely difficult to maintain while completing medical training and a residency, in which one could be working multiple 12-hour shifts in a week

Instead of simply pushing women away from the field due to the daunting aspect of a rigorous student-life, resources for medical school should be offered to encourage the growth of the population of women physicians. Resources such as pay for childcare during residency, or ability to take time off during school would encourage those who do want families to not pursue careers with less schooling. Without the work of women within the medical field, many advances would have not been feasible, such as Getrude Belle Elion, who developed 45 drug patents that combated AIDS, leukemia, and other ailments. Women should be encouraged to become physicians, whether or not they want to start a family, to in turn promote a more balanced population of physicians and welcome the opportunity for groundbreaking innovations in medicine. 

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