Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Women in Medicine: the View from the Way-back Machine

If you recognize this illustration you may be part of the group of second-wave feminists and other boomers who lingered with fascination over the pages of Our Bodies, Ourselves (OBOS).  I stumbled across my raggedy copy today.

It was first published in 1970; priced at $2.95 it is unmistakably now a part of history. Flipping through slightly-mildewed pages, I stopped to consider those years and contrast them with the present. Rock Health's XXinHealth campaign points out that 73 percent of medical and health services managers are women and US medical school entrants last year were 47 percent female.

In many ways, for many of us, OBOS is where it began. Look at this editorial note about pronouns and doctors from the OBOS authors (emphasis mine):
In many other countries the “s/he” would be accurate; in the United States it is a dream that we are on our way to making into a reality. Because this section of the book deals with how things are, and with choices we can make today in the existing health-care system, we have referred to the doctor as “he.”

Today I know female clinical practitioners who are healthcare mobile app designers, innovators in bioinformatics and leaders of multi-million dollar research groups. I understand they are the exception and not yet the norm.

But given the historical context in which my expectations were initially framed, I gotta say: hooray! The dream has become a reality, at least in part.

I do have ambitions for future generations: less disparity and discrimination and better health and a higher quality of life for all of us. But at the risk of sounding like a cigarette ad (and here, I know, GenY is asking, ‘what’s a cigarette ad?’) women in medicine have come a long way in my lifetime.

I’m proud of that.

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