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New Partnership to Focus on Gender Equity, Wellness and Leadership Issues Faced by Women Physicians

  • March 27, 2019
  • What APA is Doing For You

Female physicians face persistent challenges, including pay inequities, discrimination and an imbalance between responsibilities at work and home. To address those issues, six leading medical organizations have formed a partnership, Women’s Wellness through Equity and Leadership project (WEL), that will bring together early- to mid-career female physicians for networking, mentorship and leadership training.

The partnership includes

  • American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
  • American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)
  • American College of Physicians (ACP)
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
  • American Hospital Association (AHA)
  • American Psychiatric Association (APA)

The partnership is led by a steering committee composed of representatives from the six participating medical associations. This group will collaborate around leadership and gender equity in medicine to help foster long-term change.

"Partnerships such as this will pave the way to move from dialogue to action regarding issues affecting women in medicine,” said Theresa M. Miskimen, M.D., APA's representative on the steering committee. “Training and supporting the next generation of women leaders is an investment that will shape and enhance the delivery of care in years to come." Miskimen is the Vice President for Medical Services at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, Professor of Psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and past Speaker of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Assembly.

The WEL project has identified a cohort of three female physicians from each organization to participate in the 18-month curriculum. Activities include webinars and meetings focusing on topics of wellness, equity and leadership. The goal is to build on leadership skills, develop connections with mentors, and identify and discuss a set of principles for equitable and productive work environments.

The APA is represented by

  • Nicole Christian-Brathwaite, M.D., Medical Director, Riverside Community Care, Mass.;
  • Xenia Johnson Bhembe, M.D., Director of Community Minority Affairs, Cambridge Health Alliance, Mass.; and
  • Simha E. Ravven, M.D., Interim Chief Medical Officer, Brattleboro Retreat, Vt.

The selection process for these three psychiatrists included consideration of their personal characteristics (e.g., career stage, cultural and ethnic diversity, military status, parenting status) and workplace characteristics (e.g., subspecialties, practitioner/academic, setting).

In 2017, more women than men enrolled in U.S. medical schools, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges. In 2018, as in previous years, a higher percentage of female physicians (50 percent) reported burnout compared to male physicians (39 percent), according to the 2019 Medscape National Physician Burnout Report.

The Women’s Wellness project will focus on identifying the incidence and causes for burnout in female physicians and effective interventions that can be used at every stage of professional development, work setting and specialty. The group will identify programs that address burnout and enhance career satisfaction, focusing on data-driven and evidence-based approaches.

“Physician wellness and prevention of burnout is a major initiative of the American Psychiatric Association. This partnership helps us address our previous work in this arena while simultaneously providing training to our new female physician leaders,” said APA President Altha Stewart, M.D. “By combining our efforts, this partnership will be able to be much more effective in achieving our goals. In the end, it will be our patients who will benefit.”

The WEL project is supported by a $150,000 grant from The Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to advance the work of practicing physicians and improving health care delivery.


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