I recently read a post on KevinMD.com where a male physician witnesses a female physician reflexively deflect a male patient’s sexist comment. He was shocked at how quickly she responded to him, and how she was not at all surprised this happened.
For all of you female physicians out there, you know what I am talking about. I don’t consider myself a feminist or sensitive to “those comments” made by men, I brush them off and move on. I grew up in a family where women can do anything men can, not because I am a woman, but because I am a human being with a brain. I never saw a difference in male vs female when it came to my work or school abilities; if I wanted to be president, great, if I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, great. There was no gender defining role laid out for me. Then I went to medical school and the inequalities between the sexes were astounding! I have been called ma’am, girl, honey, sweetie, lady, nurse, and the maid by patients. I am married to a doctor, he is referred to as Dr. and I am referred to as his wife or Mrs., our mail even comes to Dr. and Mrs. Usually these comments are made by older males but every so often, it is a woman and I am truly blown away. These comments wouldn’t actually be that offensive if male physicians were also referred to by these terms. Male doctors get a level of respect female physicians don’t, would you ever call your male physician honey? I don’t think so!
This bias extends beyond what patients call us, Medscape recently published data on physician salaries and compared male and female physicians. Females are paid, on average, 24% less than their male counterparts! Then I read this quote: “Given that the role of medical schools must be to deliver the full-time frontline doctors that we need, surely the number of young women allowed to begin training should be considerably limited to allow in more young men who will give a full career of medical service and provide society with much better value for the money spent on medical training.” Dr Roger Alford said this, and meant it, give me a break. He was referring to the fact that more women than men decide to practice part-time instead of full-time due to motherhood. Thats right, they are balancing two careers, motherhood and medicine, and somehow this justifies him saying we should be punished for our child-bearing abilities by not being accepted into medical school!
Female physicians deserve the same respect male physicians automatically receive. We put in the same hours studying and training, we don’t expect to be treated better, just the same. Next time you have a female physician, call her doctor, not honey. This incredibly small action speaks volumes in terms of respect.