“Every day, I prove to my patients through my actions that their physician (who just so happens to be a female) is powerful, intelligent, competent, empathetic, knowledgeable and confident. Because, at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words. I will go that extra mile for my patient.”
In honor of National Women Physicians Day, Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky-Pollock, MD, FAAD, a Board Certified Dermatologist from Pennsylvania shares with us how being a female physician has made a difference in her career and personal life, and some of the challenges she faces every day. #ThisFemPhysicianCan
WHY DID YOU GO INTO MEDICINE?
When I was a little girl, I grew up hearing stories about medicine from my grandmother who was a nurse for almost 50 years. She would show me anatomy books for a bedtime story. There was never anything else I wanted to do in life. I worked hard during high school and college, but my confidence wavered. When my father suddenly and unexpectedly passed away from cancer, I knew that medicine was no longer a choice but something I had to pursue in his honor. I strive every day to make him proud.
DOES BEING A WOMAN MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE IN HOW YOU APPROACH YOUR CAREER? WHY?
Without a doubt, being a woman has shaped my career, life decisions, and how I practice medicine. When I was growing up in a small town in rural Pennsylvania, most of the doctors that we saw were male physicians. I never felt entirely comfortable getting a skin exam from a male physician or divulging my most personal medical history. It was for this reason that I eagerly pursued the field of medicine in hopes of bringing more female doctors to my hometown. I feel that just being a woman allows me to help my female patients and allow them to feel open and safe with me. I now practice and see patients from that small rural hometown. I am beyond grateful for that opportunity.
DO OTHER PATIENTS AND COLLEAGUES PERCEIVE YOU DIFFERENTLY BECAUSE YOU’RE A WOMAN? HOW?
Every single day, my ability as a physician is questioned because I am a woman. I have been told on numerous occasions that I look "too young" to be a doctor. "Doctors aren't supposed to look like you". I have even had a patient request that I relinquish care to an "older more knowledgeable male doctor". Despite introducing myself as a patient's doctor, they will address me by my first name while they will address a male colleague as "Doctor". Some patients seem to think that their doctor is supposed to look a certain way, and much of the time they think the physician should be male.
WHAT IS A PERSONAL CHALLENGE YOU FACE AS A FEMALE PHYSICIAN?
I find that female physicians are spread too thin. Women physicians are expected to work full time and dedicate most their day to seeing patients, providing medical care, calling patients with results, working on presentations, and publishing research while at the same time being the primary caregivers for their family and fulfill all household duties and chores. These tasks become near impossible and leave female physicians feeling burned out, overworked, and under-appreciated.
WHAT IS A PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGE YOU FACE AS A FEMALE PHYSICIAN?
One of the biggest professional challenges that female physicians face is a disparity in compensation. When all other factors are accounted for (including things like part-time, practice setting, etc.), female physicians are paid between 18-25% less than their male counterparts. Additionally, women have been offered less support compared to male physicians and are less likely to negotiate a salary contract. Furthermore, micro-aggression is real and rampant in medicine. Female physicians’ orders and requests are constantly questioned and doubted by staff and even other colleagues.
WHAT CAN (and DO) YOU DO THAT HELPS EMPOWER YOU TO BE THE BEST FEMALE PHYSICIAN YOU CAN BE?
As a female physician, I hope to continue to prove that women are equivalent to their male counterparts. I strive to push for minimizing gender bias that is so prevalent in medicine and shrink the pay gap. Every day, I prove to my patients through my actions that their physician (who just so happens to be a female) is powerful, intelligent, competent, empathetic, knowledgeable and confident. Because, at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words. I will go that extra mile for my patient.