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How Can We Help the Women of Medicine of Tomorrow?

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“Bet on yourself. Find your posse.” These powerful words from Dr. Vineet Arora, Dean for Medical Education at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, rang true at this year’s keynote address for the inaugural collaboration between WIMS and IGNITEMed to host a medical student preconference day. 

IGNITEMed is an organization founded by physicians identifying as women who recognized — through their own experiences and those of their trainees and mentees — that women medical students face unique challenges as they start their journeys to become physicians. IGNITEMed's founders also recognized that these challenges are not often discussed as part of medical training, leaving women physicians underprepared to face them during their careers. Therefore, IGNITEMed was founded to discuss these challenges openly and provide women medical students with the necessary tools to better address them throughout their careers. IGNITEMed offers coaching and an innovative lecture series during which nationally recognized experts discuss a diverse array of topics, such as gender bias, reproductive life planning, mental health in medicine, resilience and recovery after adverse events, innovation and entrepreneurship, leadership, and more. 

WIMS and IGNITEMed partnered to create an entire WIMS X IGNITE Preconference Day specifically for medical students who identify as women. We started the day with an inspirational keynote address by Dr. Vineet Arora, who discussed her pathway to success as a woman in medicine. She gave an incredible list of suggestions to women medical students, including the need to invest in oneself, finish everything one starts, seek gateways to opportunities (which may be hidden), and create room for what matters most. 

Following Dr. Arora's address, Dr. Jessie Allan and medical student Tricia Rae Pendergast led an interactive session, "Best Practices of Conference Twitter Engagement," during which participants learned techniques to optimize their social media use at medical conferences and beyond. After this session, participants could attend one of several breakout sessions, including "Reproductive Life Planning" (led by Drs. Julia Files and Ariela Marshall), "Advocacy in Medicine – Tools of Engagement" (led by Dr. Eve Bloomgarden), "Management of Microaggressions" (led by Dr. Molly Kraus), and "How to Find Mentorship and Sponsorship" (led by Drs. Neelum Aggarwal and Shikha Jain). These sessions were repeated so students could attend more than one. 

After a much-needed snack break, attendees divided into two groups: "Coaching" (led by Dr. Amelia Bueche) and "Mock Interviews" (where applicants to residency programs could practice interview techniques with faculty members and receive feedback from faculty and peer observers). Finally, we launched into a busy "Speed Dating for Specialties" session, where faculty from more than 10 medical specialties were available to discuss specialty choice and career planning with students. What a whirlwind — and if that's not enough, talented artist Lauren Green ("Dancing with Markers") live drew our sessions for long-lasting documentation and sharing on social media. 

The day was a huge success! We received an incredible amount of positive feedback from attendees. We hope that this newly found posse, as well as the WIMS and IGNITEMed partnership, will result in many future events that will benefit women medical students. We can share our own experiences and strategies to set them up for success much earlier in their careers. They are the future of the physician workforce, and we owe it to them to help them understand and overcome the challenges they may face as women in medicine. 

For any medical students interested in learning more about IGNITEMed (including those who identify as women and any allies wanting to support those who identify as women), more information about our program is available at IGNITEmed.

Dr. Marshall is the Director of Women's Thrombosis and Hemostasis at Penn Medicine and the Curriculum Director for IGNITEMed. She is an internationally recognized medical educator and leader in gender equity who supports career development for women at all stages of their medical careers. Her Twitter handle is: @AMarshallMD. Ananya Gangopadhyaya, MD and Neelum Aggrawal, MD also contributed to this article.

Illustration by Jennifer Bogartz

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