Food for Thought: Progressive Advice for Mentees

22 Feb 2016

By Gabrielle Rieth

I recently encountered an instance in which a mentor suggested that I and other female medical students rely on antiquated gender stereotypes to succeed in our upcoming clinical clerkship rotations. This advice was dispensed without any accompanying professional recommendations, such as pre-rounding on patients, recalling the patient’s medications and allergies, understanding the patient’s medical history, or practicing patient presentations prior to reporting to her residents or attending physicians.

There is nothing amiss with possessing or utilizing “feminine” characteristics to enhance or improve one’s work environment. I personally felt the recommendation was inappropriate for the setting in which it was dispensed. It seemed, to me, to neglect other vital assets we as future physicians and surgeons will contribute to our clinical teams.

I am soft-spoken and often characterized as “nice,” “sweet,” or “adorable.” I express my gender identity in a way that is traditionally ascribed to females. This combination of characteristics allows me to be perceived as non-threatening, accessible, and approachable – all of which have benefitted me when working with new colleagues and with patients.

What advice do you provide your mentees regarding gender norms in the hospital? How do you, as an attending, stay progressive?

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Gabrielle Rieth, MS, is an M2 at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She is originally from the Albany, New York area and completed her undergraduate work at Cornell University before migrating to the midwest.

Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.

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