Women in Internal Medicine

Each year, the American Medical Association’s Women’s Physician Section designates September as “Women in Medicine Month.” A clear-eyed scan of the accompanying hashtag on social media outlets quickly reveals the essential contributions that women have made historically and continue to make in all fields of medicine. Dig a little deeper and the stories being shared also reveal the persistent existence of barriers to the advancement of women in many fields of medicine and the relative under-representation of women in the highest ranks of academic and organized medicine. As such, our nation, our institution, and our department continue to have much work to do in closing the gaps that exist in academic medicine—in hiring, promotion, professional recognition, pay equity, and even the space and support for individual achievement. However, there are many encouraging signs that we are making progress at Iowa. This story last month on the four women “at the helm” of the Department of Psychiatry is one terrific example.

WomenInMedicineIn Internal Medicine, I am pleased to say that nearly half of our faculty recently promoted to Professor and more than half of those promoted to Associate Professor are women. More than half of our fellowship programs are led by women, and importantly, the majority of our Program Directors are supported by and directly mentor female Associate Directors. Our department continues to seek out and encourage the recruitment and promotion into leadership of women academic physicians as we strive to increase gender diversity in our ranks. However, we have more work to do to recruit more talented women into our training programs, and I welcome honest and open dialogue on ways (large or small) in which we can continue to improve.

On an individual level, women in our department are regularly recognized at the national level for their astounding discoveries and diligence. Dr. Sanjana Dayal recently received a supplemental grant to her already-in-progress R01, which will allow her to broaden her thrombosis research and its connections with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementias. Dr. Alicia Gerke, already a leader in the effort to build a digital registry of individuals with sarcoidosis, recently received an R01 from the FDA to better categorize individuals with this disease, planting seeds for future research studies. I am also aware of other major research awards to women in our department that have received very favorable reviews, and we will announce those in the near future, when official notification is received.

In our clinics, women are also breaking new ground. Under the direction of Dr. Nicole Nisly and Dr. Katie Imborek, the LGBTQ Clinic continues to shine as a beacon for inclusiveness and diversity in medicine. For more than a year, psycho-oncologist Dr. Arwa Aburizik has been building a group therapy practice to treat the mental and emotional symptoms associated with cancer. And, one of our newest faculty members in the Division of Nephrology & Metabolism, Dr. Diana Jalal, has been awarded an R01 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to perform clinical trials of a turmeric ingredient called curcumin on patients with chronic kidney disease in an effort to improve cardiovascular outcomes.

Of course, these represent only a small fraction of the variety of ways that women in Internal Medicine advance our profession. Without a doubt, there is need for improvement in how we recognize their work, but our training teaches us that recognition of and diagnosis of a problem is the initial and essential step toward its solution. I encourage all our faculty to explore opportunities on campus, such as Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) and the Iowa Chapter of Graduate Women in Science, and beyond to help identify opportunities where we can make a difference for the next generation. And, as always, my door is open to your feedback and suggestions.

About E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD

E. Dale Abel, MD PhD Francois M. Abboud Chair in Internal Medicine John B. Stokes III Chair in Diabetes Research Chair, Department of Internal Medicine Director, Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center Director, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Biomedical Engineering

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