Women In Medicine   6/96

We moved the traditional September women's issue to June along with the YPS emphasis to make room in September for an academic issue celebrating the 25th year of medical graduates at UCD. When two months ago we were asked to commemorate the 25th anniversary in our June issue, did we do something incongruous? Actually it was an ingenious combination of related issues. To celebrate the graduation of young doctors, to highlight the young physician in practice, and to reflect on how our schools are encouraging the increase in women medical students and faculty are all interrelated topics.

In researching the status of women in medicine and society, it turns out that not only midwifery, but also medicine was almost universally a female vocation in prescientific ages and cultures. The craft was handed down from mother to daughter. Women were thought to possess special magical healing powers. Healing the sick and wounded was thought to accord well with creating new life. Popular conceptions of masculinity and femininity take different forms of expression in different cultures and subcultures as well as in the same culture from time to time.

When I started medical school in 1958, we had three women in a class of 100. In those days, 3% was about average, even though the percent of women in the work force was about 10 times that. During my internship in 1962, we had 3 or 4 women out of 36, or about 10%. At that time women seemed to gravitate to medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics/ gynecology. Now they are represented in a much broader number of specialties.

At UCD, there are 161 women students out of 399 which is 40%. This is slightly less than the 46% of the workforce that are women. However, there are only 108 women faculty members out of 570 which is nearly 20%. If the younger faculty is 40% female, this inequity should self correct.

In our community, there are approximately 1200 physicians who are not members of organized medicine. Of these 254, or about 21%, are women. In our medical society there are 1554 active members of which 194, or about 12%, are women.

In the recent termination of physicians in this community, 8 of 14 or about 60% were women. Of all the pink slips received, 10 of 20 or 50% were women.

Medicine continues to be one of the five most lucrative professions for women (the others are law, pharmacy, engineering, and computer systems analyst). Women's earnings in all fields have increased from 2/3 to 3/4 that of men over the past decade. In the practice of medicine, the earnings are nearly equal until one reaches the ranks of administrative medicine. (Nursing is one of the few professions were women's incomes exceed men by 5%).

Although it appears that prejudice in our profession may be decreasing and much progress has been made, there is still much remaining to be done for total equality and full acceptance of women physicians by all of us. It bears highlighting once a year in this journal of opinion from our membership.