Spotlight: Women in Medicine

The “Best” Specialties for Women Physicians

By: Evi Abada, MD, MS

A couple of months ago, I was in the middle of a discussion regarding what was considered the “best” specialties for women physicians. Many of the people involved in this discussion weren’t physicians, but some were. And while the discussion was mostly dominated by men in the group, some women were also present. Suffice it to say that I was shocked by the opinions voiced by this group, including that of some of the women present. Some believed that there were specialties “meant” for women, while others were specifically designed for our male colleagues.

The experience from that encounter has stayed with me up till this day. The notion that some in society still think that some specialties are well suited to women, while some others should be considered “no-go-areas” is mind-boggling. Absolutely ludicrous and ridiculous, in my opinion. I have often found myself grappling with this ideology that society has about women only capable of fitting into certain roles and not others. Why should someone’s gender ever dictate what they can or cannot do in life? And worse still, why should that even be an issue in the field of medicine?

This is the twenty-first century, and sadly, women in medicine still face disparities regarding the specialty to pursue. In medical school, both men and women medical students are required to take and complete the same course work, before the acquisition of an MD or DO degree. However, when it comes to choosing a medical specialty, women are often fed a plethora of reasons, on why they can or cannot pursue certain specialties. The disheartening reality about this phenomenon is that some members of society, have a certain image of who their physicians ought to look like.

For example, some patients undergoing surgery may decline to be operated upon by a woman surgeon and instead, opt for a man. Even though studies have repeatedly shown that women have a slightly lower mortality rate vs men.

Unsurprisingly, the laborious task of combining family responsibilities with certain demanding specialties, is often the reason given by those who have chosen to think this way. While this line of reasoning may be flawed in and by itself, it is also unsubstantiated, because, for those who do not know, women are incredibly resilient people. Women are gifted with the capacity and capability to set their minds on a goal and see it get accomplished, regardless of the obstacles they may encounter.

A physician’s gender, should pose no barrier to the specialty they decide to pursue. Women should be provided with the support and resources they need to go into the specialties of their choice, without burdened by the fear of negative receptivity from society and the medical profession.

In essence, There is NO “best” specialty for women in medicine.

If a woman medical student believes that she will fulfill her best potentials by pursuing a given specialty, she should be encouraged to pursue her dream, rather than being dissuaded by what society feels is best for her. And that is one of the missions of 500 Women in Medicine. We are amplifying the voices of women in medicine, by ensuring that women physicians get the recognition and honors they deserve for all their hard work.

You can join us in our next steps by doing one or all of the following:

  • Support the work that we do by signing up here.

  • Volunteer to become a mentor for upcoming female physicians in the profession.

  • Incorporate leadership and management curricula into medical education training.

  • Encourage women to participate in issues of governance, leadership and policy advocacy.

  • Don’t just talk, ACT! Take action by committing to advocate for gender equity in medicine.

This is an original article of the 500 Women in Medicine, a satellite organization of 500 Women Scientists.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay