Changing Gender Paradigms

27 Mar 2014
Original blog post by Dr. Paula Ferrada (February 22, 2014) can be found on OnSurg’s blog
While reading an innocuous post regarding dating female doctors, I came across a comment that immediately unleashed a visceral response: an MD implying that medical education is wasted on women.
His argument is as follows: Medical education is expensive and supported by federal and state tax money, both at the university level and at teaching hospitals, and apparently more women than men choose to work part time. In this doctor’s view, women who work full time are part-time wives and mothers, and women who work part-time are a waste of money and education.

How not to have a visceral reaction to a statement like this…. I am a foreign graduate, and it took a lot of clinical and academic effort to find and hold a position in surgical training. Following that, I finished two fellowships and I still work full time (trauma surgeons’ hours). I have a four-year-old child, and I am married. I LOVE my job, I love being a mother and a wife, and not for a second of my life have I ever considered that I am doing anything part time.
This is not only about the terrible discrimination and stereotypical definition of roles; the core of the problem runs deeper.
Parenting is not the unique responsibility of females, neither is being a good partner in any relationship (wife, husband, friend, sister, etc.). For some reason, the “ideal family picture still contains a woman dressed in pink, holding the complete responsibility of managing a house, cooking and raising children, while the guy works late hours, earns the bacon, and is completely unaware of his children’s education and family’s emotional needs; it is not only NOT ideal, but not compatible with the reality of gender roles in 2014.
Until ALL of usmales and females, recognize the change in gender paradigms, we will not see a change in our culture. The best advice that a mentor once gave me, “be excellent.” I took it to heart: in my world, that translates into being an excellent mother, wife, friend, surgeon, teacher, partner… just being excellent. To become our best selves, we need infrastructures that understand and support our need for growth, not only as doctors, but as humans. Male and female residents, fellows and faculty, need more support to fulfill their obligations at home, while maintaining a full clinical workload.
Until each hospital/training program makes an effort to provide working parents with child care that can be open at “surgeon friendly” hours; until husbands and wives understand that building a home is a partnership that requires equal distribution of work; until both men AND women find a way of supporting each other, rather than pressurizing one another into thinking that working full time means being an incompetent parent, until then, there will be women “quitting their day jobs,” and as the poisonous blogger who inspired this option stated, “wasting tax payers dollars.”
It is encouraging to see a new generation of women and men, progressive thinkers who know that we can do anything, and sometimes even everything. So it is up to us. Unless there are people like us who purposely want to make a difference, nothing will change. It just won’t.
Dr. Paula Ferrada is an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University and the incoming president of the Virginia Chapter of AWS. 

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