Friday, September 24, 2010

Women Politicians and Women Physicians as Societal Forces

This is the year of women as rising forces in politics and in medicine.

Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for President Reagan, explains why this is true in politics in a column today in the Wall Street Journal. She is discussing the views of Marsha Blackburn, a Republican Congresswoman from Tennessee.

Driving The Election Cycle


“ They‘are the drivers in this election cycle,’ Ms. Blackburn says. ‘Something is going on.’ At tea-party events the past 18 months, she started to notice ‘60% of the crowd is women.’ She tells of a political rally that drew thousands in Nashville, at the State Capitol plaza. She had brought her year-old grandson. When the mic was handed to her she was holding him. ‘I said, ‘How many of you are grandmothers?' The hands! That was the moment I realized that the majority of the people at the political events now are women. I saw this in town halls in '09—it was women showing up at my listening events, it was women talking about health care.’

Focusing on Future Generations

“"Women are always focusing on a generation or two down the road. Women make the education and health-care decisions for their families, for their kids, their spouse, their parents. And so they have become more politically involved. They are worried about will people have enough money, how are they going to pay the bills, the tuition, get the kids through school and college."

"Women are always focusing on a generation or two down the road. Women make the education and health-care decisions for their families, for their kids, their spouse, their parents. And so they have become more politically involved. They are worried about will people have enough money, how are they going to pay the bills, the tuition, get the kids through school and college."

That 60% Figure

Keep that 60% of women at political rallies, and think of women running for high offices in California, Washington State, South Carolina, Delaware, and elsewhere.

Now transition to Medicine. Sixty percent of college students are now women, 60% of entering medical students are women, and by 2020, 60% of practicing physicians will be women.

Entry of women into the profession changes things. Women physicians are more likely to be salaried employees, to be more comfortable in group settings, to take more time off to tend to their families, to work shorter hours, to retire earlier, and and to enter certain specialties.

• OB/GYN, 68%

• Pediatrics, 65%

• Dermatology, 54%

• Psychiatry, 49%

• Family practices, 47%

• Pathology, 47%

• Internal medicine, 40%

Source: Association of American Medical Colleges

Lifestyle Factors


Women physicians, because of family obligations and gender , tend to focus more on lifestyle. In an interview I conducted with Elizabeth Chase, MD, which I published in a May 18, 2010 blog, she said,

“We call ourselves a ‘lifestyle practice,’ and we try to blend being mothers with a sustainable way of being a doctor. We give ourselves 6 weeks of vacation a year and we give ourselves 2 weeks of CME. We do not believe in working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our salaries are not as high as the national average, but we are happy this way. We look after each other and we collaborate and cooperate with the town’s other OB/GYN practice.”

On average, women physicians over their working lifetime spend about 20% - 25% less time practicing. They are more likely to retire early, in their late forties or early fifties. According to a study by Merritt Hawkins and Associates, today's women physicians work 47 hours a week vs 53 hours for men. These factor impact the physician shortage.

That’s the way it is, will be, and should be. Women are a rising, and a positive force, in politics and in health care. In many ways, they bring sanity and balance. Politically, they are diverse. In a 1999 Emory University School of Medicine study of 4500 women physicians, 37% considered themselves moderates, 37% liberals, and 26% conservative. This may well have changed, given the economic recession and its negative impact on patients and physicians, but that is material for another blog.

1 comment:

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