Women as One: 'The Sky's the Limit' for Women in Medicine

Michelle L. O'Donoghue, MD, MPH; Roxana Mehran, MD


April 08, 2019

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Michelle L. O'Donoghue, MD, MPH: Hi. This is Dr Michelle O'Donoghue, reporting for Medscape. Joining me today is my great friend, Dr Roxana Mehran, who is professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. We will be talking about the new initiative she has been launching, called Women as One, in some detail. Welcome, Roxana.

We are seeing a loss of the talent pool, and it is not because women are not trying.

Roxana Mehran, MD: Hi, Michelle. Thank you so much for doing this. Just to have this interview and to be part of Medscape to talk about this initiative is a huge honor. I really thank you for that.

O'Donoghue: A lot of people are really excited about this initiative. We will delve a little bit more into the details, but let's take a step back. Why do we need this initiative in place?

Mehran: I wish we did not need one. It sounds ridiculous that, in this day and age, we would need to bring women together as one, and that we would need to work together with all of our different societies to help promote the talented women in medicine. But the fact of the matter is, we do need that. We are seeing a loss of the talent pool, and it is not because women are not trying. More than 50% of the graduating classes are women, so it's not because they are not going to medical school. The talent pool is equal between men and women. In cardiology specifically and some subspecialties, like orthopedics, vascular surgery, thoracic surgery, cardiac surgery, interventional cardiology, and electrophysiology, we are losing that talent pool by miles. In other words, 52% of graduates from medical school in the United States are women, but only 7% of interventional cardiologists are women.[1] Globally, it is no more than 8%.

O'Donoghue: The numbers are really quite shocking, aren't they? You've had such a successful career already, but there are relatively few women who are in these leadership roles, particularly in clinical trials.

Mehran: We know it, Michelle. You have to work hard—maybe harder than your male colleagues—to be recognized. You have to be at the right time, at the right place, with the right person and mentor. How do you make that perfect storm for women? Women as One is going to try to do that in some way. We are going to try to make important connections and surface these totally unrecognized women who are talented and amazing. I feel like medicine is losing out. We know that in cardiology, when a female physician takes care of a woman with an ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, she has a better outcome. I do believe that we are losing talent.

O'Donoghue: That is a perfect segue. In a nutshell, for somebody who is listening, what is Women as One? What are you hoping to accomplish?

Mehran: Women as One is a not-for-profit organization that is going to work across all of the societies. We are starting in cardiology, but it really is about promoting female talent in all of medicine. Our main mission is to recognize and understand who these women are and then to make important connections and make sure that they are mentored. We will look at early-, mid-, and late-career women to understand how we can coach them for better negotiation techniques, leadership qualities, and help them achieve the greater good that they are deserving to achieve.

O'Donoghue: It is such a wonderful resource. I feel like there have been some improvements over time in trying to promote women into more leadership positions, but there has not really been an organized central effort. There is tremendous opportunity here with what you are trying to set up.

Mehran: Thank you so much. I just want to tell you, we need you and we want you to do these shows for Women as One on our website because you are amazing. You are an exemplary leader as a woman in cardiology, and so many people look up to you, including me.

O'Donoghue: Thank you, Roxana.

If our listeners want to get involved, women cardiologists or those interested in cardiology, what should they do as next steps?

Mehran: We just launched our website. Just go on there and put your information in the talent directory. There are important privacy rules that we will respect and we'll make sure that hackers do not get into your private information. We will immediately make a Women as One curriculum vitae that they can use and that people can use to understand who they are and get to know them better. There are award programs, research opportunities, mentorship opportunities, leadership opportunities. The sky is the limit.

O'Donoghue: I am sure a lot of people will be very appreciative. Thank you again for joining me today.

Mehran: Thank you so much, Michelle, for having me.

O'Donoghue: Signing off for Medscape, this is Michelle O'Donoghue.

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