Women's History Month Spotlight: Celebrating Resilience and Shaping the Future

Honoring the journeys, challenges, and triumphs of women in medicine from the Doximity Community.

Mar 19, 2024 · Dox Spotlight

This Women's History Month, we honor the collective journey of women in medicine, emphasizing their resilience, achievements, and the challenges they continue to overcome. The narrative of women physicians is marked by groundbreaking achievements against the backdrop of systemic barriers, underscoring the need for mentorship, flexible working conditions, and strong advocacy for gender equity. These stories of perseverance and dedication not only inspire future generations but also spotlight the critical role of support and empowerment in fostering a more inclusive and equitable medical field. This week we interviewed Marwah Tareen, MD, Kaylani Perumal, MD, and Elizabeth Vainder, MD.

How has your journey been as a woman physician?

Dr. Tareen - My journey as a woman physician has been extraordinary. I am the first woman in my family to attend college and medical school. My paternal grandmother was married at 14 during the partition between India and Pakistan and never had the opportunity to attend high school or college. I arrived in the United States at age 9, speaking only two sentences in English. Coming from humble beginnings, with a mother who was a homemaker and spoke little English, and a father who worked tirelessly to support us, I had to navigate my own path to college and medical school. I attended medical school in the Caribbean and faced challenges, such as not matching into residency right away. When I finally entered residency, the pandemic hit, and I discovered I was pregnant at the start of it. Despite these obstacles, I worked as a medical resident, caring for patients in one of northern New Jersey’s busiest hospitals. Now, I am living my dream as a primary care physician in Washington DC. My journey has been filled with challenges, but it has also been incredibly rewarding.

Dr. Perumal - Journey from self-doubt to liberation.

Dr. Vainder - My journey has been influenced by a supportive family, passionate mentors, and the rich diversity of Miami, where I trained and worked. Being bilingual has allowed me to connect deeply with my patients, enriching my practice in Pediatrics. Balancing motherhood and a medical career presented challenges, but with strong family support, I’ve been able to thrive in both roles. Recently, I've embarked on starting my own Direct Primary Care practice, aiming to provide personalized care in a unique way. As a Latin woman in medicine, I'm proud of the path I've carved and hopeful about the doors it will open for future women physicians.

What can we do to support women in medicine across practice and specialty settings?

Dr. Tareen - To support women in medicine across practice and specialty settings, consider the following: Mentorship Programs, Networking Opportunities, Flexible Work Arrangements, Advocacy for Gender Equity, Professional Development Opportunities, Promote Work-Life Balance, Address Unconscious Bias. Your mentorship of the young female doctor from Colombia is a great example of how individuals can make a difference in supporting women in medicine. Sharing your experiences and empowering others can have a lasting impact on their careers and lives.

Dr. Perumal - More role models and mentors for children in school, national recognition of women, federal and state incentives for women to enter the field of medicine, special accommodations for women during pregnancy and postpartum, nationwide movement to highlight women in all careers particularly medicine. KEY FACTOR - Very long medical school journey that discourages women. It delays living their life - postponing relationships, family, childbearing etc. Pursuing medicine calls for the sacrifice of their lives so there should be a paradigm shift in college education in this country. There have to be major policy changes in college education and tuition.

Dr. Vainder - It is imperative that the practice of medicine continues to encourage and support women in medicine. Choosing medicine as a career demands a long career path and financial commitment. I would love to see more programs encouraging primary care. In recent years, due to changes in the healthcare system, fewer physicians are choosing primary care. Without primary care (Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Ob/Gyn, Family Medicine), we are compromising overall patient care. Low compensation and increased demands by corporate medicine and insurance companies have resulted in many physicians leaving medicine, especially in primary care. I strongly believe that if we educate, empower, and teach physicians more about business, they may be more inclined to start their own practice or serve patients in creative and rewarding ways. For women, a career in medicine often means having children later in life, and this can come with its own challenges. We need to find ways to support women during maternity leave and also when they return to the workplace. It is important for women to advocate for themselves and what is important to their family. When a physician is happy, they will provide better care and feel more fulfilled as a physician. If women feel that medicine supports them and allows them to have a career and a family life that they desire, they will share that with younger medical students and residents. Small changes can make huge strides. We need medical schools, residency programs, hospitals, and corporations to recognize and prioritize the health and wellness of physicians overall.

Can you share a personal story that highlights the significance of this month in your life or career?

Dr. Tareen - My journey into medicine has been deeply influenced by the women in my family, particularly my grandmother. Her life, marked by resilience and compassion, taught me the importance of caring for others and giving back to the community. As a premature baby myself, I experienced firsthand the healing power of family and community support. This Women’s History Month, I honor my grandmother’s legacy by continuing to serve as a physician, following in her footsteps of kindness and service.

Dr. Perumal - I am the first woman to pursue medicine in my family despite discouragement from my close family. Some male doctors during my residency in the US saw me as only a wife and mother and suggested that I settle for some clinic job and not pursue fellowship. I went on to complete fellowship in nephrology. There were always men in professional life who said I couldn't do it, but it gave me immense courage and determination to prove them wrong. I am extremely proud of myself and my achievement.

Dr. Vainder - As a woman, seeing other women choose strong and academically challenging careers always reminds me that if you set your mind to something, you really can do anything. In my new venture as a recent entrepreneur, I have been welcomed and encouraged by other female physician entrepreneurs. Women benefit greatly from the support of other women, and I am so thankful that so many women in history went against the status quo and pursued male-dominated careers despite the naysayers. It is because of them that we are privileged as women to be able to choose careers like medicine. I also feel that Women's History Month should honor all of the women, such as grandmothers, mothers, friends, sisters, aunts, cousins, etc., that are behind the scenes supporting us and our children. Their dedication and hard work are not usually publicly recognized, but it is often their unconditional love and support that enables us to fulfill our dreams. I know that for me personally, having my grandmothers and my mother on my side throughout my entire journey from birth to now is how I became the woman that I am today. I am extremely thankful for the dedication of women in all aspects of my life, both professionally and personally.

Are there any organizations you would like to highlight?

Dr. Tareen - I chair the medical society of DC’s women in medicine chapter, so I would like to highlight them and Johns Hopkins community physicians for being a great place for women physicians to work! Love my employer.

How is Doximity helping you?

Dr. Tareen - I'm a big fan of Doximity; it's been incredibly helpful to me in several ways. For example, I use Doximity GPT regularly and appreciate how it enhances my work. Additionally, I enjoy connecting and networking with fellow physicians on the platform. Overall, I find it to be a great platform for professional use.

Dr. Perumal - I like the sense of community and feel there is united force with space to share and grow together.

Dr. Vainder - Doximity has always been a wonderful resource for me. It provides a platform to network with other physicians, stay in touch with my medical school classmates, and provides many useful services such as free faxing, telehealth, and accurate and scientifically backed articles. During the pandemic, I used Doximity almost every day when I needed to reach patients and provide Telehealth services. At the present time, I am participating in the Doximity Fellowship Program and am excited to learn about the new products Doximity is bringing to help physicians in the workplace.

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