05 May 2011

Women in Medicine


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            Lawrence Summers was the President of Harvard University from 2001-2006. A very blunt man, he was quoted many times stating his views on the “innate abilities” of men versus women in academics. Lawrence believes that there are fundamental differences between the natural abilities of men versus women. In a meeting with Harvard faculty and staff he was quoted saying that “women do not have the same ‘innate ability’ or ‘natural ability’ as men in some fields”. It is important to note that Summers resigned as President of Harvard University following a no-confidence vote by faculty and staff largely due to his views on the inherent abilities of women.

            In this blog I would like to begin to explore statistical trends of female medical school students and physicians as well as answer the following questions:

·      What are some societal stigma surrounding women in medical school?

·      What are some social expectations of women, and how do they differ from expectations placed on men?

·      Is Summers right? Are women lacking some ‘innate ability’ that keeps them at an academic disadvantage?

It is widely known that women have become a very strong presence on college campuses in recent years. Since the year 2000, women have made up approximately 60% of all college students (Williams).  A higher percentage of women are entering college and walking away with a degree than ever before. Over the past 11 years women have outpaced their male counterparts in college enrollment.

The United States “Department of Education statistics show that men, whatever their race or socioeconomic group, are less likely than women to get bachelors degrees – and among those who do, fewer complete their degrees in four or five years. Men also get worse grades than women (Lewin)”. In a 2004 research study printed in the European Journal of Psychological Assessment, doctors and psychologists looked at blinded samples of girls and boys and analyzed their socialization, scholastic aptitude, study habits and academic achievements. 100 children (birth-12 years), 180 school-aged children (6-12 years) and 200 adolescents (13-17 years) participated in the study. The study found that women scored higher on:

1. Warmth
2. Reasoning
3. Conformity
4. Sensitivity
5. Self-discipline
6. Tension

 The men scored higher on:
        1. Emotional stability
2. Dominance
3. Boldness
4. Withdrawal
5. Self-sufficiency.

The Study concluded the following:

“Study habits have also been associated with academic achievement, independently of scholastic aptitudes. Given a similar scholastic aptitude, students with better strategies and better study habits tend to show higher academic achievement (Aluja-Fabregat)”. This shows that someone with proper study habits and who is more socialized can outperform students who have a greater natural ability. The study also goes on to conclude, “Females obtained higher academic achievement scores than males. These differences could be explained by the fact that females showed a more socialized personality pattern and better study habits (Aluja-Fabregat)”.

Given that women are going to college at a higher rate, and getting better grades than men in general, why is it that there is still societal stigma surrounding the academic abilities of women? I would argue that this discrepancy has a lot to do with the social status of women and archaic views of a domestic wife and mother. In our society, many still hold the opinion that women are the main caregivers and men the main breadwinners. I found this to be extremely interesting, the factual statistics do not match society’s perceptions.

We live in a society where women are sexualized, and valued for their beauty. Aesthetic quality seems to outweigh inherent intellect. It is important to study this area because many women have been taught (incorrectly) that they lack some innate intellectual ability and that they are at a disadvantage academically. Statistics simply do not support this view.

When researching physician practice characteristics it was discovered that while female physicians work 8 hours less per week (on average) in comparison to male physicians, they still are working 9 hours more per week than the average American. The average female physician works 49 hours a week (AMA). Female and male physicians spend an equal amount of time seeing patients in their offices. Female physicians spend approximately the same amount of time with each patient as male physicians. Average time spent with patient is approximately ½ an hour (.56) for both male and female. Male physicians see on average 6 more patients per week yet work 8 hours more. Since only 3 hours can be accounted for seeing patients, (given the ½ hour average) the other 5 hours extra male physicians likely spend completing paperwork, paperwork that female physicians take fewer hours per week to complete.

Although still underrepresented in the physician population, women have made huge advances since the 70’s and now comprise approximately 30% of practicing doctors (AMA). Much of the difference between men and women today is due to the gender gap of older generations of doctors, not due to current medical school acceptance or graduation rates. In 2005 50.4% of medical school applicant were female, 49.5% of matriculates and 47.1% of graduates were women.

Of the top 10 medical specialties, female residents dominated three (Obstetrics & Gynecology, Pediatrics, and Dermatology). Male residents dominated three (General surgery, Anesthesiology, and Radiology). Men and women were equally represented in 4 specialties (Internal medicine, Family medicine, Pathology, and Psychiatry). Although there are still some male dominated fields in medicine, there are an equal number of female dominated ones.

In conclusion, society is simply more comfortable with men who work long hours apart from their families. There is also an assumption that women perform worse academically when in reality women tend to outperform men in academic achievements. This academic success can be attributed in part to the socialization of women and their study habits. Summers claim that women lack some innate ability has no merit and is another example of an older generation’s views on the social status of women. The more educated we can be and more open we are to the multifaceted nature of female intelligence, the quicker society’s perceptions will shift and better reflect reality.

This subject is of personal importance to me, as a pre-medical student that is often met with criticism regarding my aspirations of becoming a doctor. If I am able to reach one person, and convince a woman somewhere to chase her dreams then I have succeeded.  Our ‘innate’ differences must be celebrated, not condemned our ability must be harnessed not restrained, and we must believe in ourselves and social views will follow in our commanding footsteps.


Aluja-Fabregat, Anton, and Angel Blanch. "Socialized Personality, Scholastic Aptitudes, Study Habits, and Academic Achievement: Exploring the Link." European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 20.3 (2004): 157-165.

AMA "Statistics and History." The American Medical Association, July . Web. 12 Apr. 2011. .

Lewin, Tamar. "At Colleges Women Are Leaving Men in the Dust." NY Times, 9 July 2006. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. .

Williams, Alex. "The New Math on Campus." NY Times. N.p., 5 Jan. 2010. Web. 24 Apr. 2011. .


10 March 2011

The Inward Happiness Machine

The "Inward Happiness Machine" is a theoretical machine, which grants you total happiness in every category of your life. This is a synthetic sense of happiness but upon being plugged in you would forget that it wasn’t real. Would you plug into the inward happiness machine forever? Would you choose perpetual happiness over reality?
As appealing as it sounds to be able to plug into a machine that would assure eternal happiness I believe that I would neglect to utilize it permanently. It would certainly be an interesting experience to plug in for a short time but I believe that living real life, even though it is filled with highs and lows would bring more satisfaction.
It is because we have to experience pain that we value pleasure so much. I value honesty and integrity and that sometimes means experiencing pain, disappointment, and sadness. On the other hand, I hold a great appreciation for the value of happiness, laughter and love because I understand the alternatives. We value the lives of those around us whom we love, we experience loss and devastation when someone passes away; this pain makes us appreciate what we have. It is this balance of pain and pleasure that creates a fulfilling life. If we were to plug into this happiness machine, it would be a synthetic happiness and happiness that knows no pain could never be as wonderful as reality.
This question is important when considering modern philosophy because it calls upon ones own inner quest for happiness. Since the majority of philosophical theory is based upon maximizing happiness and minimizing pain it seems fitting that this thought experiment be used in analyzing ones inner moral philosophy.

20 February 2011

Beauty and Innocence

He has captured my heart, stolen my breath, brought me to tears, and made me feel like I can fly; he only weighs 8 lbs. One deep breath and the blink of an eye, 9 months of anticipation and uncertainty all come to an end and all of my insecurities fade into the background. I look into his eyes and there is clarity, understanding. He knows me. I know him. He is an angel, picture of perfection he has stolen my heart for now and forever. If only for a moment a deep sense of calm, of peace, washes over me and in that moment everything is right in the world.

The experience of becoming a parent is deeply personal and uniquely filled with emotion. There are highs and lows, insecurity and anxiety all wrapped up in a neat little package. All of your fears are on your sleeve and you are exposed. A tiny little being looks to you for all of his worldly needs and in exchange all he can offer is unconditional love and you cherish every drop of it. 

The frustration and anticipation leading up to labor is indescribable. You spend your time cleaning, painting, folding tiny outfits and trying to imagine how those miniature little socks could ever fit anyone when in reality they will likely be way too big for quite some time.  The contractions come and go, and every time you hold onto a glimmer of hope that this might be the time that they develop into true labor. As you cross out more days on your calendar the weeks seem to stretch into oblivion and a feeling of urgency comes over you.

And then it happens…the contractions start and begin to intensify, some of the most concentrated pain you could imagine. It is a pulsing kind of pain that gets hotter and more intense and then begins to dissipate.  As labor progresses there is a fear of the unknown coupled with the excitement of being about to meet your new baby. What is he going to look like? Is he going to have my eyes? How long will I be in labor? Should I have that epidural? How many times do I have to be poked with needles? Blood drawn, twice. IV hooked up and dripping. The wonderfully orchestrated dance of birth.

And then he arrives. Everything else that is going on around you seems to stop and there is perceived silence. Nothing else is in focus. The first time that you look into his eyes there is a beauty and innocence that is unbelievable. A certain magnetism draws you to each other and you know he has secured a place in your heart for eternity. All of the pain, all of the hard work, all of the frustration is gone and you feel like you could fly.

Today I feel more blessed, more complete, and more loved than ever before. I am fortunate to be able to share this experience with my best friend, my husband. As we move together into the future this experience has changed us. Another chapter has been added to our story. Every adventure that lay ahead of us, no matter how harrowing will be made all the sweeter because of these moments that we have shared. I will cherish this time forever. I will never forget the feeling of pure perfection in the moments when I became a parent. Whether it is your first, second or fifth child there is something innately magical about meeting your child for the first time.

Happy Birthday baby Hudson, you have forever changed our lives and captured our hearts. 

05 November 2010

Army Life; from the perspective of an Army Wife

With Veterans Day fast approaching I have been doing a lot of reflecting upon my life and everyone in it that has been touched by the military. My brother, whom I love and respect and find to be one of the most wonderful people in the world, is a disabled veteran. He is a Marine who fought courageously during Operation Iraqi Freedom. For a long time I didn’t understand the magnitude of service to ones country. I feel that people can generally conceptually understand the dangers and difficulties related to being in the military but I think that some major pieces one can’t truly understand unless you become immersed in the military life.

Even with my brother’s service I didn’t fully understand how completely being in the military family changes you; how it changes all of your relationships forever. Two years ago, my husband and I were both college students who worked full time jobs and were raising our young daughter. Two years ago, my husband signed the official papers and enlisted in the Active Duty Army. I have gone from being a mother/student/wife/coworker to being an Army Wife. I could never have fully imagined the complete restructuring of my life that would happen over the past year and a half.

I will say that I have been fortunate thus far that my husband has not been deployed yet. That being said, of the past 15 months my husband has been gone for 10 months. The first lesson that I have learned as a new Army Wife is that no holiday or special occasion is sacred. My husband missed Thanksgiving, New Years, my birthday, his birthday, and our daughter’s birthday last year. He is scheduled to be gone 3 weeks after our second child is due, he will miss his birthday, our daughters birthday, and our 6th wedding anniversary this coming year. Once you accept the fact that you have to celebrate special occasions whenever you can it makes being apart much easier. Also, for your sanity you must be optimistic at all times. What I mean by this is, yes he has missed out on a lot but we were so lucky that we had Christmas together, yes he is leaving 3 weeks after the baby is born but we are fortunate that he will be here for the birth. Things like this become important life rafts that you cling to when you are separated.

Parenting is a whole different ballgame when you are married to the Army. First you must prepare your family for the changes that will happen when your significant other leaves for an extended period of time. Next you must accept all parenting responsibilities for the duration. This in itself is a Herculean task at times. Having a young daughter I had to come up with creative ways to keep my husbands influence in the house while he was gone. We made a paper chain that each night we would tear off a ring and put it in a box. Every night she could choose a Hershey’s Hug or Kiss to have from Daddy (Most nights she wanted both and of course how do you say ‘no’ to that?) We wrote letters telling of our day everyday, I asked her if questions such as “What did you do today?” “Who did you play with” “Is there anything that you want to tell Daddy?” and “What do you think that Daddy did today?” I would then either mail the letters out (if allowed) or we would save them and give them to him when he came home. Also, she loves when he draws pictures for her so during periods of time where he couldn’t communicate he would send me a packet of pictures ahead of time that I could ration out and stick in the mailbox every once in a while.

Next there is the indescribable excitement when your soldier is coming home. I remember standing at the bottom of the escalator at the airport with our daughter searching the faces of the many people in military uniforms looking for him. I remember our daughter saying, “is that him?” about a hundred times. Once I had to say, “No sweetie, that is a woman and she has a broken leg.” The second that you see him time stands still. Our daughter would have run UP the escalator if I weren’t holding her back.

The next part is something that I hadn’t really anticipated. Once your soldier returns home you have to completely restructure your life again and reintegrate him back into the family unit. There is a period where you all have to get to know each other again and learn how to work cohesively. My husband left a 3-year-old daughter and came home to a 4-year-old daughter, wow what a difference. I can only speak for myself but this integration period was difficult.  When you are alone you become fiercely independent and at times giving up that and allowing your spouse to help out is hard.

So what is it like living on an Army Post?

In my home-town, if you go driving at 5:30 in the morning you see maybe 6 cars on the road, a short line of cars at the McDonalds drive through restaurant and a handful of people wearing button down shirts waiting in line at Starbucks coffee house. Living on a military instillation is like living in another world comparatively. At 5:30 in the morning when you drive across post you will see the following: A line of cars a mile long at every post entrance waiting to pass through the checkpoint, police cars at all major intersections with their blue lights flashing, waving soldiers across the streets during morning PT. Every morning starts with PT (Physical Training). Driving around post you might see, runners, ruckers with 70 lbs. on their backs, people doing pushups, pull-ups, sit-ups. At 06:15, 06:30, 17:15, 17:30, and 24:00 you hear a trumpet sounding cadences over the loud speaker and it can be heard throughout post.

A typical week for PT might look like this:

Monday: 5 mile run
Tuesday: Lifting at the gym
Wednesday: Running the stairs
Thursday: Combination of sprinting, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups
Friday: 6 mile ruck march with 40-70 lbs. on your back (combination of running/walking)

            Add onto this, being dropped off at a drop zone and waiting for your chance to jump out of a perfectly good aircraft. Good morning soldier, now you can START your actual 8-hour workday.

The other day I had to run to the Commissary to get some milk. As it turns out the milk is on the exact opposite corner of the store from the entrance so I had to walk the length to get it. Think of your local grocery store at home. On my short journey through the store I saw 6 injured soldiers. Injuries range from broken bones to lacerations of the face. It is a common scene to see a young married couple, perhaps the wife is pregnant and she is pushing her husband in a wheelchair through the store.

Fort Bragg has a population of around 30,000 people. NC State University also has a population of around 30,000 people. Now imaging for a moment that you are a college student living on campus. Your whole life for four years revolves around the relationships that you forge on campus. You might belong to groups and organizations, you find friends attend sports events and you find a real sense of community. Now imagine that every week 2-4 students are killed. That is what it is like living on Fort Bragg. Every week in the local newspaper there is a column titled “Soldiers killed in Iraq” and “Soldiers killed in Afghanistan” Every soldier has a written bio that talks about their military career, the names and ages of their children, wives, or husbands who have been left behind. I remember vividly on week grabbing the newspaper off of our porch and on the front page were the faces of 8 Fort Bragg soldier. We lost 8 soldiers that week in Afghanistan.

Fort Bragg is attached to Pope Air Force base; the scene at the Pope airfield is a mixed bag of emotions. Some days you have planes bringing soldiers home who have been on 12-15 month deployments. You see soldiers meeting their newborn child for the first time, 5 year olds racing into their parents arms that they haven’t seen since they were 4 years old, and wives and girlfriends dressed to kill anxiously awaiting the moment when they see the love of their lives for the first time in a long time. Other, more somber days you see family members gathered close together getting ready to receive their soldier’s body. Then, you have the “goodbye” sessions as soldiers prepare to leave for their deployments. There is not a tear free face; there are prolonged embraces quiet goodbyes and children looking to their parents for cues as to what they should be feeling.

In the six months that I have been living on post at least 27 soldiers from our post have been killed overseas. I thought that it would be appropriate to mention them as Veterans Day approaches and thank them and their loved ones for their sacrifice and service to our country.

Fort Bragg Soldiers Killed in Action
Capt. Jason E. Holbrook, 28
Staff Sergeant Kyle R. Warren, 28
Capt. Daniel Whitten, 28
PFC Zachary Lovejoy, 20
SPC. Scott Andrews
SPC Jerod Osborne, 20
SPC Keenan Cooper, 19
1st Lt. Christopher S. Goeke, 23
Staff SGT Sheldon L. Tate, 27
SPC Christopher J. Moon
SPC Chase Stanley, 20
SPC Jesse D. Reed, 26
SPC Matthew J. Johnson, 21
SGT Zachary M. Fisher
SPC Joseph D. Johnson, 24
PFC Gunnar R. Hotchkin, 31
SGT Mario Rodriguez, 24
SGT Eric Colby Newman, 30
SPC Ronnie Joseph Pallares, 19
SGT 1st class Ronald A. Grider, 30
Master SGT Jared N. Van Aalst, 34
SPC Brendan P. Neenan, 21
PFC Billy G. Anderson, 20
First Lt. Salvatore Corma, 24
SPC. Joseph T. Caron, 21
SGT 1st class Carlos Santos-Silva, 32
PFC Ryane G. Clark

I hope that my experiences might give some level of perspective on what it is like being an Army Wife. I know that my experiences and perspective will evolve over the duration of my husband’s service. I can say with all of my heart that I appreciate the sacrifices that every soldier, and every family member makes from the large sacrifices to the small silent ones. There is no one that I have more respect for than someone who is willing to serve his or her country.  Thank you, and Happy Veterans Day!

19 October 2010

Evolution of Relationships

People are always changing and evolving it is a natural course of growing up. We change mentally, emotionally, physically and on many other subtle levels we are largely unaware of. I think that this is why people find it difficult at times to maintain relationships.  Each person is on his or her own independent course of evolution. Who we are today is just a shadow of who we will be in the future. So how then, in this course of inevitable change, do we maintain healthy relationships?

When I was growing up I was blessed to have two very loving and supportive parents. As a child I viewed them as infallible, without faults. They were a constant predictable source of support for me.  Do you remember the day your realized that your parents are just regular people like you? The day that they spoke to you from a common point of view or there was some shared understanding or experience that probably caught both of you off guard. It is kind of like seeing your favorite elementary school teacher out in public for the first time when you were a kid. What is this? They actually leave the school?  Discovering that your parents have hopes, dreams, fears, regrets and insecurities of their own changes your perception and your relationship has inevitably evolved too.

Next something interesting happens. Life as it often does comes full circle. Now you are an adult and have a child of your own. This little child has 100% blind love, trust, and faith in you. You are their super hero, their entire world. You can solve any problem, and protect them from any situation. Meanwhile, you are just learning as you go along, improvising and secretly you are terrified that you will do something wrong. That you wont live up to their expectations. Welcome to the joys of parenthood.

I have found that finding a balance in your life is the most important aspect of maintaining positive relationships. People sometimes think that they need to constantly sacrifice for their loved ones. We tend to put off our own hopes and dreams in support of the dreams of those around us.  I have come to understand that you have to be a little selfish to achieve your dreams. I wake up in the morning, get my daughter dressed and kiss her goodbye at daycare before driving an hour and a half up to campus for the start of my classes. This isn’t to say that it is easy to leave her each day. There will always be days that I find myself wishing that I could spend more time with her. But I know that following my passion and becoming a strong independent and intelligent doctor is a lesson that will transcend words and hopefully will teach her to always go for her dreams.

 For me, I enjoy college. I feed of the stress and pressure and love being given the opportunity to learn something new each day. Children learn by example. Finding my passion in work and academic realms helps boost my self-esteem, which in turn helps strengthen my relationships.

 The most important lesson that I have learned through my college experience and my experiences as a parent is knowing when to put down the textbook and to pick up a children’s book. Finding balance, knowing what is most important in life, and never forgetting what motivates us to succeed. For me this is the foundation for living a fulfilled life as well as maintaining strong and meaningful relationships. 

18 October 2010

Professional Career Development

As I was sitting in my professional career development class the professor was lecturing about the importance of creating a positive online identity.  I began thinking, what footprint do we leave online and how does that reflect upon us as individuals? 
Did you know that many prospective employers screen their potential employees by “Google-ing” their names? Most everyone has a Facebook or Myspace account and this is one major resource that potential employers can use to gauge employees.
This led me to wonder, is it fair for employers to judge us based upon our ranting Facebook status updates, or the pictures we post while wearing revealing clothes or out drinking with friends? And the answer that I came up with was a resounding YES! When we chose to make information public then we agree to allow people to judge us based upon what information we provide.
I decided that in an effort to begin creating my positive online identity I would start writing a blog.  So, with very little agenda here goes…enjoy!