National Women Physicians Day
February 3, 2017, marked the second annual National Women Physicians Day (NWPD)—a day dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of female physicians, as well as shining a spotlight on the issue of diversity and inclusion in medicine. NWPD takes place on February 3 each year to commemorate the birthday of Elizabeth Blackwell, MD, the first woman in the United States to become an allopathic physician in 1849.
Since then, the osteopathic medical profession has achieved many milestones in support of women physicians. In 1977, only 14.5 percent of total DO enrollment was female. Over the last decade, females have comprised about half of U.S. osteopathic medical students.
Despite the growth of diversity in osteopathic medical education (OME), the profession still has a lot of ground to cover. According to the latest American Osteopathic Association’s (AOA) Osteopathic Medical Profession Report, only 40 percent of DOs in active practice are women.
Women in Leadership
Research and leadership are themes of the Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents (COSGP) annual winter meeting, where DO student leaders come together to represent their peers in addressing issues in OME and the profession.
The themes of the meeting were reinforced this year by COSGP National Vice Chair Dan Krajcik and the Council’s AOA Board of Trustees (BOT) Student Delegate Vanessa Halvorsen, who recognize the need to educate the general council on leadership from a perspective that hadn't been emphasized before: women in leadership.
As current and former AOA BOT student delegates, Vanessa and Carisa Littman observed that few women held leadership positions—a disparity that ripples throughout the osteopathic profession. This observation ignited Vanessa’s fervent interest in this issue, inspiring her to read Sheryl Sandburg’s novel Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.
“This book delves into the barriers that women face in leadership, both anecdotally and research-based,” Vanessa says. “So much of these gender biases are so engrained in our culture [that] a lot of us don't even realize we have them. Introspection is necessary to see how each of us personally feel—only when the issue is brought to our attention are we then able to self-reflect and see where we stand.”
Leaning in to Leadership
‘Leaning in’ to Sandburg’s model, Vanessa reached out to her DO student peers, and together they collaborated on an essay investigating the barriers that are met by women in leadership and throughout the osteopathic profession. Through research, as well as interviews conducted with leaders at AACOM and the AOA, “Not only did we identify the barriers and issues women face, but also solutions to these problems," said Vanessa.
Looking forward, COSGP’s “Women in Leadership” Committee plans to present their findings at the Joint AACOM & AODME 2017 Annual Conference in April. The group hopes to provide their essay to colleges of osteopathic medicine across the nation in an effort to eliminate the stigma of women in medicine.