September 24, 2021

Strength in numbers: Groups for women in medicine continue to grow

Medical students volunteer regularly at the YWCA Interim House in Detroit, the only domestic abuse shelter in the city.

Every September, the American Medical Association’s Women Physicians Section celebrates Women in Medicine Month by honoring physicians who have offered their time, wisdom and support to advance women with careers in medicine. The Wayne State University School of Medicine is home to countless outstanding women in medicine and science – physicians, teachers, researchers, mentors and more. It is also home of several programs and organizations born with the intent to support and enhance women’s health, leadership and education. While not a comprehensive list by any means, here are just a few organizations and interest groups focused on supporting women in medicine.

Established in 2008, Women in Medicine and Science, or WIMS, works to advance women at all career levels within academic medicine and science by addressing gender equity, recruitment and retention, awards and recognition, work-life balance and career advancement. WIMS hosts events open to all interested faculty, staff and students within academic medicine and science. Several members of WIMS collaborated to publish a study in February called “Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on Physician Moms” in the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness. The study used social media and an online survey to evaluate the personal and professional experiences of 2,709 physician mothers during the coronavirus pandemic from April 27 to May 11, 2020, and the impact of the pandemic on the lives of physician mothers.

The School of Medicine is also home to a new student organization dedicated to female medical students and physicians who juggle another full-time job at home – being a mother. Moms in Medicine was established earlier this year by Class of 2024 medical student Zahra Alburkat.

Similarly, the American Medical Women’s Association is an organization of physicians, medical students and other persons dedicated to serving as the unique voice for women’s health and the advancement of women in medicine. “As a student organization at Wayne State University School of Medicine, we work to support not only the women in our school by providing mentoring opportunities, but also women in our local community,” medical student and member Dana LaBuda said.

AMWA formed a partnership this year with the YWCA Interim House of Detroit, the only domestic abuse shelter in the city of Detroit.

“As an organization, we have helped provide childcare for those at the shelter, donations of food, water and hygiene products, and beginning soon we will offer wellness visits to increase access to medical care at the shelter. We have had more than 50 volunteers in the past two months and have received great support from our medical students,” LaBuda added.

On Sept. 30, AMWA executive board member Charlotte Thill will take over the School of Medicine’s Instagram

Charlotte Thill

Stories (@WayneMedicine) in honor of the final day of September as Women in Medicine Month. Thill, a second-year medical student, serves as a liaison between the AMWA and WIMS, and co-hosts a podcast called From Skirts to Scrubs with friend Alesha Kotian. They use history and current events to navigate what it means to be a woman in the medical field and in their own lives.

Thill’s fellow medical students, Kristina Barrientos and Sara Saymuah, both Class of 2023, started the Women in Surgery Interest Group this year with the hope of dispelling myths surrounding women in surgical specialties, as well as providing a network of support and mentorship to WSU School of Medicine students. They also hope to foster community and provide insight and networking opportunities for women interested in surgery.

“We hope to dispel myths surrounding females in a surgical career through outreach events, guest speaker series and mentorship,” Barrientos said.

Like Women in Surgery, the Obstetrics and Gynecology Interest Group aims to provide medical students with exposure to a specific medical field. They also strive to teach patient advocacy for those who identify as women and those who required Obstetrics and Gynecology services.

For more information on any of these student organizations, visit studentaffairs.med.wayne.edu/student-orgs.

For more information on Women in Medicine and Science at the School of Medicine, visit www.med.wayne.edu/wims.

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