Why Do You Blog?

The past week I’ve been meandering down the interview trail hoping to avoid death by dysentery along the way…ugh…wait…wrong trail.

Anyhow, I really have been traveling around Central Texas the past week for residency interviews and along the way the most commonly asked question has been:

“Why exactly do you blog?”

Most often the question has been posed with genuine interest and good intentions, but it has been occasionally paired with a single raised eyebrow and skeptical tone. Both reactions I understand and both are great reasons for me to address the question here. Would it be appropriate to refer someone to a URL mid-interview?

No? Oops…maybe I really have been in the blogosphere too long.

So, here are the 6 best reasons I can come up with on this half-cup of coffee I’ve had:

#1: I enjoy it.

I initially started writing in this blog 2 years ago (holy wow, have I really been typing random rants and information for two full years? You people are so tolerant.) because I felt like medical school had sucked the creativity out of me. I can’t paint or draw (except those awesome stick figures cursed with Streptococcus agalactiae and Pseudomonas), so naturally blogging was my only option.

#2: Before medical school I worried…about work-life balance, about studying, about family.

I feel like I have a perspective to share that would’ve given me hope as a pre-med. I wanted to write about whatever we might sit down and talk about over coffee. I wanted to show that a work-life balance was not impossible for a woman in medicine and I wanted to share my experiences. Everyone doesn’t go to medical school, but a lot of people seem to be genuinely interested in our experiences here, particularly those considering a career in medicine. This feeling to share the possibility of balance in medicine became even more urgent after seeing that everyone was not promoting the fact that it is possible.

#3: Our patients are online…and they have so much to teach us.

I feel like I’ve now written ad nauseam about the utility of hearing people’s stories…feel free to hop on over to “Following Patients On Twitter…” or “What Medical School Doesn’t Teach Us” for my take on learning from patients online.

#4: Our pateints are online…and they have a right to reliable information.

We have this unique opportunity to share information on things we are passionate about and know to be evidenced-based, like flu shots and how they’re safe in pregnancy or the fact that endometriosis is related to infertility. Though I don’t blog in this manner too often at this point in my career, I do plan to share more health information in the future (you know…when I’m really a doctor and stuff).

The bottom line is our patients are going online to find their health information and, in my eyes (and the eyes of some awesome health bloggers like SeattleMamaDoc) that means we have a responsibility to be online with them.

#5: It’s a fun challenge.

Make no mistake, friends – maintaining a blog is no easy feat. It’s a fun and interesting endeavor, but it does take some time and patience. I’ve enjoyed seeing Mind On Med evolve into what it is today and I’m excited to see where it’s headed in the future. I love the challenge of putting my thoughts into words and of designing and orchestrating the back end of the blog. It’s exciting to see what posts get a lot of chatter on the Twitters (usually not the posts I expect) and it’s fun to hear others opinions on what I have to say.

#6: I get to learn from people I never would’ve met if I wasn’t online.

I’ve interacted with people from more countries than I can count, specifically through the Medical Education Monday series. People from all over the world have taught me what it’s like to train to be a physician in their country and I’ve had the opportunity to share it with y’all. I’ve also had the chance to meet (or “meet”) medical students, doctors, and other providers from around the US and learn about how medicine is practiced in different parts of our country. These are not conversations I would have had without my involvement in social media and I think there’s a lot to be said for a tool that makes it so easy for us to step outside of our little bubbles…and comfort zones!

Why are you involved in social media and/or blogging…as a patient, provider, or student? I’m interested to hear what keeps you coming back to the wonderful web-world every day.

Stanford Medicine X – Student Voices

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Let me start off by saying I’m learning so much at this conference. Dr. Larry Chu has done a fabulous job organizing and orchestrating, a true class act of knowledge, technology, and passion.

Everything about this conference has me nodding my head and saying, “Yes! THAT is why I’m involved in social media & health technology.” Med X has maintained a human side by giving a loud voice to patients, something I think is incredibly important to maintaining compassion in healthcare, and still managed to be on top of medical information by including a great mix of emerging health technology.

We’ve heard from patients, investors, lawyers, doctors, professors, engineers, computer scientists…all kinds of people.

So, what’s missing? The voice of students.

I’m so disappointed in the lack of involvement given to those of us in the throws of medical education. We are here. We are watching. Many are even help organize and offer ideas to the planning of the conference. But, we have no voice…

This is not a new thing at medical conferences, medical students and young physicians (residents, newly practicing docs) are often left out of speaking positions and panels. Perhaps it’s due to time and money constraints. Or maybe the reason is that we don’t have the expertise that many of these wonderfully seasoned docs have and we aren’t a traditionally valued opinion group. I don’t think those are great reasons, though. In fact, I think that lack of experience is a great reason we should have a voice.

Why do we deserve a voice?

We are in a unique place in our lives – not quite general population, but not quite healthcare provider. We still have the idealism that not fully understanding the medical system allows, but we have enough insight into the medicine to express ideas that are consistent with medical practice.

Why are we valuable in the ePatient realm?

One of the biggest echoings I’ve heard from the amazing patients here is that their stories aren’t being heard by their providers. I talk a little in this post about our role as medical students allowing us to be more present with patients. We have time to listen to patients. We are afforded an opportunity to hear their stories, because we don’t have 25 patients to round on – we have 2. We can offer an infantile medical perspective mixed with a healthy naivety of knowing patient stories.

We deserve a voice at these conferences, because we have a lot to offer. We deserve a voice, because we are the future. We deserve a voice, because sometimes being an expert isn’t always the best way to develop new and innovative ideas. Steve Jobs could’ve told you that.

Following Patients on Twitter – The Other Side of the Chief Complaint

I recently tweeted asking about favorite patients, physicians, and students on Twitter and was met with a plethora of shocked tweets at my inclusion of patients as potential Twitter interests.

Perhaps other medical friends interpreted this as being similar to meeting people in clinic and asking for their Twitter handle (which is not something I do) or maybe people really think it’s wrong to follow patients on Twitter, I don’t know. However, I do know y’all should be aware of why following people who tweet about their medical problems is beneficial to me as a future physician.

I don’t follow all that many people on Twitter – I find it overwhelming to keep up with too many people. Dr. Vartabedian at 33 Charts expressed my sentiments on this perfectly in a recent post, “How I Avoid Filter Failure on Twitter.”

So why, with my limited “following” numbers, do I preferentially follow people who tweet about their experiences as patients?

How often in medicine do we forget that on the other side of that chart and chief complaint is a person?

What if we are forced to understand that a person’s ailments and the way their physician treats them often directly affects their entire life?

I’ve mentioned before how incredibly eye-opening it has been for me to follow people in the infertility community. I’m currently on my Ob/Gyn Sub-I and am keenly aware of how heart-breaking infertility, high-risk pregnancy, and pregnancy loss can be for my patients, purely because I’ve been exposed to some of these women’s stories online.

@EndoJourney is struggling through this right now and her story is one of many that makes me so exquisitely cognizant that the worries of pregnancy (and the heartbreak and fear of pregnancy loss) do not end when a patient leaves our office. Some of these women (often along with their spouses and families) are forced to worry 24 hours a day that a very wanted child may never be in their arms.

Medical problems permeate lives. When we, as healthcare providers, forget that our actions, our words, our demeanor truly affects the well-being of our patients we easily lose compassion and gain complacency.

So, yes – I follow patients on Twitter. Not my patients, but patients who share their stories. I follow patients who explain how their doctors have affected their mental and physical health – how their physicians have failed them or fought for them and how it made them feel.

I follow patients to understand…to avoid complacency…to maintain compassion.

I learn from these people on a curve much different than that of traditional medical training, because through them I learn to be acutely aware that my actions – both positive and negative – are not quickly forgotten.

I am sharply conscious that an ounce of honest compassion can significantly improve someone’s mental well-being…and that a moment of carelessness can destroy it.

And that, my friends, is not something that can be learned from a textbook.

Breaking The Rules

A recent article called “To Tweet, or Not To Tweet: Physicians Misusing the Internet” discussed a new JAMA study which apparently found that…

“92 percent of state medical boards in the United States have received reports of [online] violations ranging from inappropriate contact with patients to misrepresentation of credentials.”

I guess this is supposed to be shocking, but I was really somewhat underwhelmed with the information (I was actually more shocked it wasn’t 100% – which state has had none…because that’s awesome). It’s exceedingly easy to report a violation that occurs online, since it’s permanently etched in the history of the internet, so of course there’s a large number of state boards receiving reports on violations that occur online.

The discussion is relevant and interesting, but clearly written with a negative attitude and watch-your-mouth, paternalistic tone (like many of the recent articles and research publications on social media in medicine, unfortunately). A quick search finds that the doctor on the answering end of this Q&A session has a rarely used Twitter account (@RyanGreysen) and no blog (that I could find, anyway)…clearly making him one of the least effective people to be discussing these issues unless his only advice is going to be to avoid a presence in social media all together.

However, that’s not exactly the point. What irks me so much about the recent onslaught of negative-nancy articles on physicians in social media is that they pretend that the internet is some delinquent hangout for the physicians who can’t seem to conduct themselves professionally. The tone of these articles comes across like Twitter is where we gather to join in HIPAA-violating hippie parties and have inappropriate contact with patients.

The tone implies that these things don’t happen on the elevator, at the football game or in the corner bar. The article (and many others like it) repeatedly discusses the need for educating physicians on the “rules” of online behavior and “how to conduct yourself online.”

That is not the problem.

The fact that the online world documents breaches is the problem.

Venture into any hospital hallway and you will be bombarded with far more private information in a circle around one ward than you will in a full days Twitter stream.

The issue is not that we’re gathering online and violating HIPAA because we don’t know how to conduct ourselves online, the issue is that it’s recorded here.

By saying we should educate physicians on how to act online we imply that either:

A) Unprofessional conduct is not occurring off-line.         OR

B) It’s more important to watch what you say here because it’s documented.

 

Is it important to watch what you say here because it’s documented?

Absolutely. Unequivocally. Yes.

Is it more important than it would be in your local Chili’s?

I sure hope not.

 

Sure, you’re less likely to get caught if you’re talking about private patient details in Chili’s, since it’s not being recorded and all, but that doesn’t make it ok. As a kid my mama would tell me,

“Doing something bad when you know you won’t get caught doesn’t make it any less bad.”

Doesn’t that rule still hold true?

What I’m saying is that these are not separate entities. Just because reports aren’t getting filed about physicians discussing private patient details in elevators as often as they are about physicians discussing private patient details online does not mean it’s happening less. It means it’s recorded less. That is not to say that there is no room for guidelines or advice about conduct in social media, just that online behavior is not inherently different than offline behavior. @SeattleMamaDoc really said it best,

“We are worse in the elevator than we are online.”

We don’t need to educate physicians on behavior online, because this problem is not unique to the internet. We need to educate physicians on keeping private patient information to themselves. On using some common sense and respecting co-workers and patients alike. Not just on the internet…everywhere…including on the internet. The physicians who are violating privacy and acting unprofessionally in the elevator are the ones who will talk about their patients online. This is not a problem inherent to an information medium, it’s a problem inherent to a person. And I’m not sure it’s one that can just be “educated” out of someone.

Thus, this is not about our online conduct, it’s about our conduct…and as soon as we make it about online conduct we imply that it’s only important to follow the rules if there’s a really good chance you’ll be caught if you break them.

 

Image 1: Pixomar | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Find Your Voice, Listen To Theirs

Rain drops trickle down the double-paned, ovoid window as my eyes jump from plane to plane watching for movement on the runway. The rainy weather in my connecting city has brought me back to the familiarity of muggy, hot Spring days that were so common place in my college years and I’m reminded of the excitement I felt of being in a new place, doing new things. As we taxi the runway for what seems like hours I reflect on the whirlwind weekend I’m making my way home from…

New city.

New people.

New ideas.

New Inspiration. 

I spent the weekend surrounded by what I can only describe as the most innovative and creative group of people I have ever encountered. The thirst for knowledge, aptitude for leadership, drive for entrepreneurship and innovation in the room was almost palpable. I found myself repeatedly standing just outside of conversations and listening – not wanting to join in too quickly because I was learning so much as an observer.

Amazed by everyone from medical students to physicians to marketers and computer programmers, I began wondering what I had missed…how I had become so complacent with doing the same things every day rather than innovating and advancing.

Being surrounded by people who harbor a thirst for knowledge and desire for advancement is contagious. The viral enthusiasm was quick to seep into my brain and I now find myself wondering how I spent so long in the dark about all the opportunities available for me…for my husband…for anyone who wants to seek them out.

I feel so blessed to have been a part of the Doximity Leadership Summit and I am so impressed with the ideas and information coming out of the group of physicians, students, supporters, developers and crew. My eyes have  been opened to an entirely different world of medicine that I never knew I was missing.

 

Doctor Vartabedian of 33 Charts wrote today on the future of Key Opinion Leaders – what does a physician influencer in the age of social media look like?

In my eyes they look like the people I was with this weekend – innovative, intelligent, well-spoken and … most importantly … just plain excited about all the things we will be accomplishing in the next 10, 15, 25 years.

 

As medical students and young doctors this is exceedingly important – we have this opportunity to use our voices and ideas to further not only our careers, but the entire field of medicine and how it’s practiced. I no longer feel like we have an option to be involved – this is an obligation…to ourselves, to our patients, to our educational experience. If you aren’t interacting with your tech-forward peers and mentors you are robbing yourself of an opportunity for personal advancement and missing out on inspiration and innovation coming from the mouths (and finger-tips) of people just like you.

Life is short, take this opportunity to find your voice and listen to the voices of others.

The digital age cannot be viewed as threatening for medical professionals any more – the longer we shy away due to scare tactics and unfounded concerns, the longer we lag behind in innovation. We can use this platform to change the world.

 

To be inspired…to create…to have a voice…this is a privilege. 

 

Five Reasons Mind On Med (and @daniellenjones) Won’t Disappear For Interviews

As Match Day for the Class of 2012 quickly fades into the background and residency applications for my class begin to appear on the (horrendously terrifying, Wizard of Oz tornado-esque) horizon, I find my classmates starting to disappear (or discuss disappearing) from Facebook and other socially-oriented websites.

“Are you taking your blog down for application and interview season?” someone innocently asked, “I mean, some program directors just may not appreciate the ‘social media’ involvement as much as you do.”

The question, while valid by many accounts, irked me a bit – of course I’m not taking down Mind On Medicine for residency applications. 

Why? Let me give you a few reasons.

1. I have nothing to hide.

If I were to take down my blog for residency applications and interviews it would imply I have written something here that I need to hide from my “higher-ups.” I don’t write about patient specifics, in fact I can think of only one time I’ve even written vaguely of a patient interaction, and I don’t write negatively about classmates or residents or attendings. I just write. About medical school, about my life, about funny stuff, about serious stuff…I just write. This is my hobby and I enjoy it, why would I hide that from anyone?

2. It seems a bit dishonest.

If I did take it down what would happen when I started residency? I’d put Mind On Medicine back up and eventually someone would ask why it conspicuously disappeared for the period of time I was applying and interviewing? Awkward turtle. 

3. It’s sort of on my CV.

Not explicitly, but in a round-a-bout kind of way. I was recently published in one of my school’s magazines and the article mentioned this blog. So, if someone were to read my lone “publication” and attempt to visit Mind On Med from that reference only to find I had deleted it…well, that’d be a little weird. I’ve also received some opportunities from this blog that are included on my CV – being a founding medical student of Health Tap University, working with Doximity, a job writing reviews for iMedicalApps, attending and participating as a panel member at an upcoming Doximity Leadership Summit – and I’m sure at some point in my interviews it will come up how I stumbled upon at least one of these awesome, non-traditional opportunities. These are seriously amazing things I’ve had the chance to be a part of all from being involved in social media…I really just want to paste it everywhere so people can see the benefit, not hide it like a red-headed step-child*.

4. I’m proud of my writing & involvement.

I consider my involvement in social media more than just a haphazard manner of sharing what I had for breakfast (although, I do occasionally share what I have for breakfast…especially when it’s cookies…or vending machine crap…), it’s a way for me to learn. I have gained so much from being involved in social media, more than just cool opportunities. Not only do the people I’ve met teach me as much as the people I interact with “in real life,” they’re helping me network, expand my career and, maybe most importantly, open my mind to ideas, lifestyles, & beliefs I wasn’t previously familiar with. There are so many people on Twitter who have taught me how to be a better physician in the future and I am so grateful – these opportunities have been overwhelmingly valuable to me.

5. What a freakin’ hassle!

Umm…I’m not entirely sure what all would go into making this blog disappear for a certain amount of time, but I am confident I do not want to deal with that! I worked too hard creating a blog, moving it to WordPress, designing a Header, organizing, changing, adding, subtracting and editing to make this thing disappear. It’s a work of art (notably included in the “my-3-year-old-could’ve-finger-painted-that-what’s-it-doing-in-the-Smithsonian” genre).

 

A while back my internet friend (oh, – reason #6 – if I hide my internet existence it knocks me down to 2 friends total…and one is married to me…so I really can’t afford delete myself at this point) and Mind On Med guest blogger, Allison from MD2B, wrote a post called “My Social Media Manifesto” in which she, much more gracefully and intelligently than I, described some fabulous reasons for keeping her internet presence around during application and interview season. Hop on over and give it looksy…good stuff.

So, there you have it – the 5 reasons I am not using the Abracadabra dust to make me internet-invisible come September.

Agree? Disagree? What are your reasons for keeping (or Control-Alt-Deleting) your online presence for application season?

 

Image: graur codrin | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

*No offense meant to red headed step-children. I myself am a step-child…and am currently sporting hair in a shade of red. I did not take offense to that statement, so neither should you. If you did I need you to evaluate your life and discover what your evil step-mother did with your sense of humor. It’s likely locked in the cold, dark basement she kept you in when you weren’t mopping floors.

 

Thursday Thoughts | Distributing personal medical information via social networks

From a friend’s Facebook status:

Times have definitely changed. I am filling out my son’s paperwork for his well check with his new pediatrician and there is a spot to put your Facebook or Twitter account down to receive non urgent info about the patient!

We are clearly moving in the direction of social media and digital information, so I would love to hear your thoughts on the following (answers should assume consent from both parent and physician to use this type of interaction for non-urgent medical information):

  • Is it legal?
  • What about ethical?
  • What considerations would be required regarding this interaction?
  • What about privacy and security issues*?
  • Would all these considerations be a problem if there’s been consent from all parties?

And most importantly…

  • As a patient, would you consent to transferring non-urgent medical information this way?
  • What about as a physician or other healthcare provider?
*To play devil’s advocate, what makes these interactions any less safe than “snail-mailing” non-urgent info? Theoretically, can’t almost anyone open your mailbox and mail? Doesn’t snail-mail go through way more hands to get to someone than email? What makes them any less secure than cell phone voicemails? We learned from this incident that cell phone hacking is incredibly easy if you know the right people and technology. What do you think the differences are?

 Image: Free Digital Images | Kookkai_nak

 

Defeated, Confused, Sad Doctor

What Medical School Doesn’t Teach Us

In the course of our work as doctors we will undoubtedly witness events that change the life of our patients, but coming into medical school I never realized how directly some of these events would also change my life. 

Often in medicine we see people at the worst possible time. Our patients are usually sick or grieving and rarely happy to be in our presence, no matter how great we might think we are. More often than not, they are experiencing things we’ve never experienced, things we understand on a molecular or biochemical level, but not on a palpable, emotional level. We don’t know what it’s like to live in their shoes, so we draw on our experiences, the experiences of past patients we’ve seen and the knowledge we’ve gained in our training and do our best to play the role of both healer and comforter.

  But, as medical students, sometimes our pool of past patients with similar experiences to draw on is limited. How do we ensure we are the best providers for our patients when we may have absolutely no clue how they are feeling? I truly believe that, as medical students, we have a very important role on the healthcare team, but when our experiences are limited what do we base our actions off of?

I believe Social Media has a role to play here.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

  Because I’m interested in Ob/Gyn and Reproductive Endocrinology I keep track, via Twitter and blogs, of several women’s journeys through infertility and pregnancy loss. I have silently watched from the sidelines as they supported each other through loss, openly shared their heartache with strangers and occasionally even expressed what they wished friends, family & medical professionals had done or not done for them while they were hurting. 

So, when I happened to be the first provider into the room to see a woman who was miscarrying, I wasn’t entirely uncomfortable. I’ve never been through pregnancy loss or talked at length with any friends who have experienced it, but it was almost like I had an army of compassionate friends in my back pocket providing me with insight I could not possibly have had otherwise.

Without these women I would have asked a quick list of questions and gotten the heck out of that room, because quite honestly, I would have been uncomfortable and entirely at a loss for what to say without making things worse.

Instead, I knew that this patient likely wanted someone to listen to her story, that she probably would benefit from hearing that this wasn’t her fault and there was nothing she could have done differently or better. I understood how important it was to let her know she was allowed to feel however she felt, whether that be completely devastated, functionally numb or even relieved. She needed to hear from someone else that she was allowed to grieve, that any feelings of loss were wholly valid and that, even though I had no idea on a personal level what she was going through, I was going to do everything I could to support her while she was there.

These ladies are my teachersmy professorsmy examples. Without trying, without being paid, without PowerPoints or lectures, they taught me how to be a compassionate caretaker in a situation I did not understand.

  As I walked out of my patient’s room that day I knew she still had a long road ahead of her, but I was confident that, if even just a little, I had helped her. I left that day realizing that, without my presence in Social Media, the night would have likely gone very differently. I left knowing that nothing in medical school would ever have prepared me to be confident enough to begin to handle a situation I could not possibly understand.

Most importantly, I left knowing she had helped me more than I had helped her, because she had opened my eyes to the fact that everyone around us is a teacher…even on the internet.

Medical school teaches us how to handle situations we can control, ones we can fix or change or at least slow down – not how to handle emotionally-heavy situations where a negative outcome is inevitable and immediate…only experience teaches that.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

 

I wrote this several months ago as a thank you to my Twitter friends who have dealt with this situation publicly and today I finally decided to share it here. So, thank you for letting a bystander hang out in your world every once in a while and for being open about your struggles, losses and triumphs. You, along with all the other patients, activists, and advocates I interact with, both online and off, are making me a more compassionate, informed and confident care giver. You teach me things I will never learn in school, help me keep up-to-date on literature and are a huge asset…not only to me, but to my future patients.

Image: Sura Nualpradid | FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: Ambro | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

MomMD.com Announcement – I Need Your Help!

A few weeks ago, while I was consumed with memorizing what causes a left shift on the O2 Dissociation Curve, I received an email that made me giddy with excitement and overwhelmed with gratitude. MomMD.com, a site I’ve frequented many times since deciding to apply to medical school, contacted me asking if I’d consider coming onto their team as a weekly blog contributor. I am ecstatic to have this opportunity and can’t wait to get started over there.

The blog there will be separate from Mind On Medicine and, among other things, I’ll be writing more about topics related to being a woman in medicine. Don’t worry, though – this blog isn’t going anywhere! This is still my personal outlet and I’ll be here just as much, but I’d love to have your support and encouragement as I get started as a contributor for this rockin’ resource.

In the mean time, I would love it if my awesome Mind On Med readers would help me choose a name for the new MomMD blog! Vote for one of the options below, or add a new one. If you come up with something great, I’ll definitely add it to the options!

Later on I’ll announce the winner and let y’all know where you can find me on MomMD!


[polldaddy poll=5261349]

First: Do No Harm…Even To Colleagues?

Like many others I recently read a New York Times Op Ed piece entitled “Don’t Quit This Day Job,” written by Dr. Karen Sibert and I was immediately taken aback by what she had to say. I wanted to write this several days ago, but as anyone who has spent half a second perusing my blog or Twitter knows, I’ve been severely busy losing my mind for the past several weeks.

The first thing that struck me about this piece was not that she was stating her opinion, but that she chose to take the route of justifying her opinion by saying that medical education was “subsidized” by the government and women working part-time were the reason there was a shortage of physicians. She took two hugely complicated and multi-faceted issues, chiseled them into pawns that worked for her argument and held them up as shields for her below-the-belt shot at other women, all the while ensuring she herself came off as the martyr.

What I don’t understand is where she gets her basis for blaming the physician shortage, a crisis we can all agree did not start yesterday, on women working part time. She states that the part-time work force has grown 63% since 2003...two-thousand-three
…meaning, people started going part-time in large quantities well after we had identified that there would be a primary care physician shortage. There is so much more to this problem – to take a national platform like the New York Times and use it to place the blame for such a massive, cumulative problem on women working part-time is wholly and incredulously irresponsible.


It is ironic she chose to point her finger only at part-time women physicians with children, as if there are no men who are part time for their kids or no people of either sex who are part-time for other reasons (like research, academia, continuing education, volunteering, writing books or NYT Op Ed articles scaring females out of medicine, etc.).

Her choice to blame part-time women in particular makes it obvious that this article is less about the physician shortage or lack of healthcare and more about pointing her “you are weak” finger of medicine at the new generation of physicians and standing up on a pedestal to wave her holierthanthou
flag.

As a current female medical student I am well aware that medicine is a field in which it will be difficult to find a work-life balance. Coming into this we are not jaded to the fact that work-life balance is hard, nor are we ignorant to the fact that the generations of physicians ahead of us view medicine differently than we do. Dr. Sibert brings up some great points in her piece, but spends most of her time blaming this or that on other people.


Saying it is hard to find life balance is not the same as placing a blanket statement over women that they should not go into medicine if they are not going to work full-time. For one, it’s irrational – many medical students start medical school unmarried and not considering children…those people have no idea where life will take them in the next 10 or 15 years – life can change drastically in that time. Dr. Sibert judged an entire group of women whose lives have not been as easy as hers – women who went to medical school and decided they wanted kids but didn’t have the help she obviously had. She chose to use her platform as a place to pin these women as being less strong or less dedicated than she, while overlooking that you can be dedicated to medicine and still put your family first.

What is obvious in her writing is that Dr. Sibert either had the luxury of a nanny to raise her kids or had a husband and family who could pick up the slack when she was working “full-time.” It’s easy to judge from that side, when you’ve never lived 400 miles away from your entire family, been a primary care physician who didn’t make enough money to hire a full-time nanny, found yourself suddenly a single mother or the parent of a child with a disability requiring full-time assistance…or simply decided your family wasn’t going to be put on the back burner.

It was irresponsible and unfortunate for her to choose to address a subject warranting so much discussion by placing the blame of the current physician shortage on women who work part-time. Where she could’ve stimulated productive conversation, she instead shattered alliances and discouraged female physicians. Her words are absolutely and incredulously wrong and her assumption that these women are less dedicated to their profession is blatantly out of line. The blame for the physician shortage doesn’t go to part-time women, it goes to a culmination of events that have played out beginning many years ago and including, but not limited to, decisions made by politicians.



It is commendable, from a professional perspective, that Dr. Sibert has chosen to work full-time. However, it is also commendable from a parenting perspective those that have sacrificed themselves to do what they felt is right for their children. These are not situations requiring blame or shame, they are choices. Dr. Sibert is blessed to have a job she loves and a family with enough support that she can work full-time in that field. Many of the “part-time” women she is referring to still work 40 hours/week…an amount considered full-time by most all standards. They are doing the best they can – for their patients, their family and their colleagues – they don’t deserve the blame given.

If nothing else Dr. Sibert has done a supreme job of building a huge wall between her generation of physicians and my generation of physicians when we need their mentoring and guidance the most. We aren’t here to be judged, we’re here to live our lives and learn how to be the best doctors we can. From there, we will make the best decisions we can to ensure we stay good physicians by maintaining not only our skills, but our personal mental and physical health…even if that means less hours per week than Dr. Sibert. It saddens me that she has discouraged potentially great future female physicians from choosing medicine as a career path and, frankly, I expect more out of her as a woman, a mother, a mentor and, mostly, as a colleague.


Images Courtesy of Sura Nualpradid.