My husband sometimes sends me interesting pieces about women in medicine, gender discrimination, or, his favorite, gossip from the world of academic medical centers. The best source for this sort of thing is MedCenter Today, which touts itself as the “world’s leading independent source of business information for Academic MedCenter faculty!”
Today’s headlines: “Harvard Neurosurgeon, Accused of Gender Bias, Resigns.” Well, for me that was really old news, reported last week in the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal. One very brave woman, my colleague, Sagun Tuli, MD, took on a very powerful man in a very entrenched old-boys network—neurosurgery in the heartland of the old-boys’ clubs, Boston. Her $1.6 million award was not enough to compensate her for the crass and inexcusable treatment she received at the hands of her now former chair, Dr. Arthur Day.
It is a testament to her strength and tenacity that she stuck it out and continued to work in the same hospital and in the same department. And by doing so, she triumphed. His resignation from not only the chair, but also his medical staff privileges is the best possible outcome for not just Dr. Tuli but for all of the people who were witness or victim to abominable behavior.
To my surprise, it was not the lead story to which he directed my attention. “See story on NIH grant for U of New Mexico,” he wrote. So I scrolled and I scrolled and I scrolled. And I thought I missed the story so I went back to the top and started to scroll again. Finally, the 12th story, under Research and Discovery, revealed this pearl: “Health Sciences Center Leads national Study on Barriers for Women in Academic Medicine.”
Well, this story wasn’t new to me either. As an alumna of the (Women’s) Medical College of Pennsylvania (which then morphed finally into Drexel University School of Medicine, which houses the Women in Medicine Archives and is the home of the first program for developing executive leadership in medicine—ELAM), I had read about this grant in my alumni bulletin. (Just as an aside, in 1990, when I was promoted to associate professor, I asked the dean to support me in going to this training program. Need I tell you the response?).
So there really wasn’t any new news. But I was struck by these two very different headlines. Here were two very different approaches to changing the culture of male dominated medicine.
On the one hand, let’s study barriers to cultural change. How long will that take? It took 30 years for women to become 50% of the admitted medical students this year.
On the other hand, let’s take the bastards to task (be they men or women). How long will that take? I am sure not 30 years. But it will take many more courageous, determined women than exist in today’s world.
Which do you think will be more effective? More study? Or just adopting a zero tolerance for those guys and gals who just don’t get it? Let me hear from you!