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Do We Still Need to Talk About Women Physician Pioneers and Innovators?

CNN News Piece Does a Great Disservice To Women Physicians

exeptional womenExceptionalism is not as inspiring as it once was.  Talking about women who have scaled higher and a greater number of mountains than the usual woman physician does not help us face our own barriers and limitations.  These examples answer one question, “Can it be done?”  And the answer is, “Of course!  Look at these 12 women.”

Only 12 women were highlighted here when there are hundreds, maybe thousands who have pioneered and innovated for almost a century.  The definitions of pioneering and innovating need to be reconsidered.  How about the first woman to successfully have a child while still in medical school, in surgical training or while in practice?  Fifty years ago this was almost unheard of.

How about the 500th woman physician to have gained academic tenure?  Or the 40th to lead a major organization?  Or the 10,000th to have graduated medical school?  These are the women we ought to be celebrating because they have, despite ongoing challenges and bias, continued on the most difficult career path there is. 

Women do not need to have heroines to achieve great things.  There is nothing wrong with celebrating success, but as long as we insist on creating the category of gender as a factor in this success, we have failed to recognize (once again) the tremendous efforts it has taken every woman physician to get where she has gone.  We have devalued the worth of too many women physicians because they were not extraordinary by criteria that has little bearing to the “ordinary” physician among us, if she even exists.

We are all extraordinary.  We are all innovators and pioneers in our own lives.  We don’t need a Nobel prize or a title of Surgeon General to have made incredible differences in the lives of others.  Time to look for role models that can actually impact our daily lives as women physicians.

No thank you, CNN for another reminder that only 12 women were needed for “content” to create the illusion that “news” is actually being reported or should we say “made.”  We know it can be done; it’s now time to report on how often and well it is done, so these women are no longer “alone” in their exceptionalism. Exceptional women in medicine are the rule, not the exception.


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