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The 'I Caught You Upstanding' Series

Women physicians face unique challenges because of their gender in the traditionally male oriented profession of medicine. During Women in Medicine Month, ACP asked members to share stories of particularly challenging situations they faced as women physicians.

We share these stories to celebrate the support and guidance these women received from colleagues to resolve the situations, but also to show women physicians that they are not alone. Many have faced similar situations and challenges, and we hope these vignettes serve as inspiration to others.

If you wish to share your story, please email membership@acponline.org. We want to hear from you.

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I was precepting a female resident physician, and when I was in the room with her, talking to a female patient, the patient referred to the resident physician as "this girl.” The patient was intentionally disrespecting the resident physician, and not addressing the resident in a professional capacity. I advised the patient that the resident physician was my colleague, and that she was NOT "this girl", but was "Dr. X". Then both the resident physician and I proceeded to complete the history taking and office evaluation together.

After the office visit, the resident physician thanked me, and stated that she had never had any supervising physician support her that way before, even though she had experienced patients "talking down" to her in the past. The resident physician thanked me for the support.

We as women physicians need to make sure our junior physicians that we mentor, precept, advise, etc., are given their full professional respect by colleagues and by patients, as they can often be disrespected, even by patients, and even by women patients. We need to work against the implicit bias that younger women physicians, particularly resident physicians, are somehow less than "real doctors."

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 A recent fellowship graduate, Dr. X, was applying for her first job after training. A mentor mention that she should speak with Dr. Y, who was recently hired in the same department and institution to which she was applying. During her conversation with Dr. Y, Dr. X learned that other recent hires for the same position were offered moving or start-up packages. As a result, Dr. X was empowered in the negotiation process to request and receive not only the basics for her new position but other benefits as well.

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My co-fellow, Dr. X, was pregnant and was told by our program director, Dr. Y, that "there is no maternity leave in training."  Dr. X hadn't taken any vacation for months because she was saving it all for after delivery.  She wouldn't even take sick days and was struggling with hypertension early in her pregnancy.  I told her that Dr. Y was wrong, emailed a colleague outside our division who was higher in Graduate Medical Education, and made Dr. X meet with that colleague who clarified that she would indeed be eligible for maternity leave.  My co-fellow took the days of she needed and graduated on time from fellowship after her baby was born.