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Starting a Women’s Group in Medicine

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Speakers: Purnima Patel, MD, Emory University and Andrea Tooley, MD, Mayo Clinic

Interview: Starting a Women’s Group in Ophthalmology


AT: Dr. Patel, can you tell us how you went about forming your women’s group at Emory and what went into that? How did you do that?

PP: Absolutely. So we initially started because I had a colleague join as junior faculty, and she was reaching out to me for guidance on what to do. She was lost as to how to navigate academic medicine. And we decided together that we should just have a women’s group. Get everybody together. Our department was growing really big and everybody was in different locations. And it was just an opportunity to kind of get everyone together in a very supportive environment that focuses on camaraderie.

And we, from the outset, sent out our goals and our mission as to why we’re doing this. And we meet monthly, which is a big ask.

AT: It is.

PP: And we have a lot of faculty members that show up each month to these, because it is their highlight of their month and it is a positive experience. And we really work on professional development goals. So each month we have a specific professional development topic that we’re working on. We have two people co-host. And we ask that it be people that do not generally work together, so that it creates an opportunity for them to interact.

AT: Yeah.

PP: And we try to do it in a home environment, so that it’s more comfortable and casual. We have medical students, residents, Fellows, and all faculty attend. And that’s junior and senior faculty.

We’ve been doing this for about a year and a half. And we also invite women from other departments. Because one important part of professional growth is expanding our network.

AT: Yep, absolutely.

PP: And in that effort, we asked each woman to bring someone from another department whom they collaborate with to our meeting. And we had one of our deans from the School of Medicine come.

And she loved the environment that was created. And I remember the words that she used. She said this was the most positive thing she has seen in our institution in years. And this is a woman that’s been working there for over 20 years. So it’s beautiful. And now we are helping other departments start a women’s group of their own.

AT: Fantastic.

PP: We’re also starting one at the School of Medicine level to have a lot of these conversations about women in medicine and kind of bring them up to the forefront that this is something, we’re not going anywhere, and we want to grow and we want to contribute and we want to see more women in leadership.

AT: Wow. That’s just tremendous. And I hope that what you’ve done inspires other people to do similar things at their institution and nationally. It’s just wonderful.

PP: I do, too. I do, too.

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