The annual 2022 Women in Medicine Summit (WIMS) in Chicago was everything I didn’t know I needed as a medical student. Under the fierce leadership of Dr. Shikha Jain, female powerhouses from across the country convened for the first time in person since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In unifying women with a common goal of addressing gender inequity, this WIMS event was the embodiment of its mission.
I am fortunate to serve as a student member of several WIMS committees and was selected as a volunteer for this event. Little did I know that, as a volunteer, I would be the recipient of so many unique benefits that come along with the WIMS model, which is all about providing women with opportunities. I attended a student-focused day consisting of preconference lectures, coaching sessions, and speed-dating to find your specialty networking events. Aside from this entire days’ worth of programming dedicated to us as students, WIMS allowed and encouraged volunteers to take the lead during sessions through photographing and live tweeting, monitoring our live stream for the Zoom audience, and scribing during the sessions. We were given full autonomy over our volunteer experience, allowed to self-assign to the roles that needed to be filled, and to determine our own student leaders for each session. Furthermore, in accordance with the words of Dr. Shikha Jain, “we need to work to advance ourselves as much as we need to advance others,” I was encouraged to use the content I curated from listening to our all-star speakers to step out of my comfort zone, expand my skillset, and promote myself through my first ever opinion piece, which you are now reading here.
Even if it seems scary or unpredictable, as women in medicine, it is important for us to start here and now to put our ideas into action. We all want to wait for the right time, but there often is no “right” time. This was the message core to the wisdom shared by Dr. Nneka Chineme Unacukwu (Dr. Una) in her breakout session on entrepreneurship and medicine. Dr. Una reflected on her early career when, while 9 months out of residency and 8 months pregnant, she was encouraged to start her own practice by her boss. This is when she realized that for many in this field, there is the doctor and there is the entrepreneur, and they are often completely different people. She shared a desire for her own practice, her own brand, stating, “If the only skill I needed was to walk into an exam room, see a patient, and walk out… I was going to be out.” This sentiment is not unique to Dr. Una: one of the leading causes of workplace burnout is loss of autonomy. In the journey to gain control of her practice, to build an optimal business, and live life and practice medicine on her terms, Dr. Una founded the EntreMD podcast and business school for physicians. She shared with us attendees three core concepts, which I feel also serve as a beautiful, representative highlight of the WIMS 2022 programming:
Know who you are.
We must show up every day unapologetically, knowing we are special because we are physicians. “Don’t say you’re a Honda Civic when you’re a Rolls Royce.” Physicians make the best entrepreneurs because we have been trained to be innovative and to get things done without a profit.
Know your assets.
There is nothing “just” about any physician out there. It is a disservice to have the skills and assets we possess, and to not realize we have them. Physicians must establish and own our personal practices and brands, and if we don’t, others will take advantage of us.
Know your opportunities.
We have so much locked up on the inside, which the world is just waiting for us to unlock and share. Our opportunities are limitless, so we must do what makes us happy. “If physicians are happy, then patients have it made.”
Dr. Una challenged us as an audience to think about our 90th birthdays, and what we want our impact to be, and then to reverse engineer that to make it happen. I can say with certainty that, after being involved in this year’s Summit, Dr. Shikha Jain and the WIMS leadership team will make some of this world’s most accomplished, and happiest 90-year-old women.
This organization lives and breathes its mission, and this event was a beautiful display of that. Thank you for inspiring me with your greatness and for leaving me with this final takeaway from the 2022 Women in Medicine Summit: Events empowering women are crucial for the future of medicine. I feel so blessed to have been at this event in the presence of these trail-blazing, passionate, powerful women who are working tirelessly to change the field of medicine for the better.
Olivia Negris is a third-year medical student at Rush Medical College in Chicago. She is passionate about gender equity and improving medical education. When she is not studying, she enjoys traveling as much as possible, taking yoga classes, and cheering for the Michigan Wolverines during football season.
Illustration by April Brust