Women in medicine have come a long way towards reducing gender disparities, but organizations still must focus on identifying factors that will help build women’s careers, according to Rotonya Carr, MD, associate professor of medicine and chair and division head of gastroenterology at the University of Washington, who discussed the status of women in GI during Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) 2022.
“There are still significant gender gaps in medicine,” said Dr. Carr. “But it’s important that women recognize our achievements in the context of history and give ourselves a lot more credit. I hope women come away from my talk appreciating how far we’ve come, in spite of some significant challenges.”
Dr. Carr highlighted some of the literature on how factors such as mentorship, sponsorship, innovation, visibility and bias have impacted the role of women in gastroenterology. She also tasked the audience to consider additional factors that contribute to success.
“These things are crucial for a successful career, but the research shows that they’re not sufficient,” said Dr. Carr. “It’s important to understand that just because someone has a mentor or a sponsor that they won’t automatically have a successful career.”
“I want to challenge some of the assumptions about why women are successful,” she continued. “It’s not a straightforward answer. Women can have all the things that we say they need to be successful, but there are still gaps. There is no exact equation for success.”
Dr. Carr said her own career has taken a rather circuitous path, ultimately leading to her current role, which allows her to both see patients and run a basic research lab focused on the mechanisms of insulin resistance in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and alcoholic liver disease.
“I came into gastroenterology rather late,” she said. “During my fellowship, I joined a lab and got hooked on research. I knew I wanted a career as a physician-researcher, but as a nontraditional candidate, some people doubted my ability to succeed.”
“When I talk to mentees who are struggling with which direction to go, I challenge them by asking them what they’re passionate about and what energizes them,” she continued. “This is different for everybody. But recognizing what’s important to you can give you the confidence to make decisions about your career path.”
Dr. Carr stressed that no matter their role or position, women in gastroenterology have chances to lead at multiple levels.
“Gastroenterology has the widest breadth of any field. We are at the bedside, doing procedures, in the lab and teaching. Women are doing all of these things — and we have the opportunity to be leaders in all of these roles.”
Dr. Carr gave the oral presentation, “Advancing leadership for women in GI,” on Sunday, May 22, at 8 a.m. PDT as part of the Gastro Women’s Coalition Symposium.