Chronicles of a Med Student: Having It All

Last Updated on June 26, 2022 by Laura Turner

One of the great things about your pre-clinical years (years 1 and 2) is that while you are studying all the time and trying to cram 500 facts into your head, you get to sample little portions of the clinical world in the form of talks. I recently went to one involving a cardiologist. We were in the middle of our cardiovascular block, and since I had really liked it so far, I decided to go to the talk to see what cardiology was all about. When I got to the sign-in sheet at the door, I noticed I was one of five women there—the remaining 20 names were all men. My friend also told me she went to a similar talk on surgery and the same thing happened. Why?
I was raised to think that girls and boys were on equal footing and that they can all do anything they want to do. I like to think that’s one of the reasons I excelled in school and got to where I am today. Instilling fears in girls that they are not as proficient at math and science is horrible, because not only are we losing half of our innovative workforce, but also because studies have shown that girls are actually better than boys at math and science and outperform them consistently. There is so much potential there, and it’s times like these that I am proud to be a woman in a STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math, medicine) field. Anyways, back to the dilemma I mentioned earlier: why were so few girls going to specialty talks? When I picture my life in ten years, I see myself as a practicing cardiologist with a happy, healthy family. Wait–there it is. Is it really possible to be a woman in such a competitive field? Especially up against men who can devote more of their lives to their careers and don’t need to carry a pregnant belly around work, or leave in the middle of the workday because their kids are sick. Many dads do tend to their kids, don’t get me wrong, but somehow even today in our society, most nurturing jobs still fall on the woman in the family. This can extend to other household duties such as cooking and cleaning the house while her husband brings home the bacon so to speak. I sometimes wonder if we are just biologically inclined to lean towards such a system or if it’s a product of society. I’ve come to the conclusion that it can be both.
This dilemma is quite testing for a woman like myself who wants to have a family as well as a successful career. I’ve made the choice to put my future family first, but I also want to push myself intellectually and pursue a competitive field like cardiology. I think it can be done under the right circumstances, but it takes a lot of planning. Fortunately, I’ve talked to female physicians who are also moms and asked them about their work-life balance. For example, I would probably have to sacrifice a little bit of each aspect of my life in order to make room for everything I want. This might involve missing a couple of my future kids’ sports events for time at the hospital, but it could also mean working part time to enjoy both a family life and a career. I’m still young, but I realize that if I don’t plan my future with all of this in mind, I could be stuck in a real pickle with an 80 hour work week and a family that feels neglected and hates me. The female physicians I’ve talked with have been honest with me in the fact that they do miss out on time with their families, but they point out that if you choose the path that is right for you, you can have it all!