Women in Medicine Panel discusses unique challenges for women in health care

2023 Women in Medicine Panel discussion
Anne T. Neff, MD ’85, speaks at the Women in Medicine Panel Discussion Tuesday, Nov. 14. She is joined by (left to right) Laura Henderson Kelley, MD, Jane F. Knapp, MD ’78, Victoria J. Fraser, MD ’83 and Elizabeth Garrett, MD, MSPH, ’79.

The MU School of Medicine celebrated women in medicine with a panel discussion Nov. 14 featuring five diverse female physicians speaking on the challenges they’ve faced while practicing medicine and offering words of wisdom to the next generation of physicians.

Panelists included:

  • Victoria J. Fraser, MD ’83 and current chair of the Department of Medicine at Washington University’s School of Medicine
  • Laura Henderson Kelley, MD, the MU School of Medicine Associate Dean for Diversity, Inclusion, Culture and Equity and an associate professor of General Internal Medicine and Pediatrics
  • Jane F. Knapp, MD ’78, professor emerita of Combined Internal Medicine & Pediatrics, associate dean, vice chair pediatrics, chair of GME at the University of Missouri – Kansas City
  • Anne T. Neff, MD ’85 and retired specialist in hematology and blood banking at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio

Elizabeth Garrett, MD, MSPH, ’79 and professor emerita of Family and Community Medicine at the MU School of Medicine, served as the panel moderator.

2023 Women in Medicine Panel discussion

The panelists each shared why they entered medicine and their experiences while training and working, and the various challenges and misconceptions they’ve had to overcome. One example is how they felt pressured to do more than their male colleagues, as if they needed to prove themselves.

Knapp remembered an interview’s first question: Was she married? Pregnant? Did she have plans to marry or carry a child? It’s in those situations that having a mentor or someone to advocate for you can be really important. Henderson Kelly emphasized the importance of asking for help from your peers and friends, especially as a woman.

“Being a female and a woman of color too, it can be isolating – but you learn that they don’t have to look like you or be like you to be supportive and helpful,” Henderson Kelley said.

2023 Women in Medicine Panel discussion

After the panel discussion, attendees had a chance to ask the panelists questions, with most asking how best to navigate male-dominated spaces. A reception followed the Q&A, giving audience members a chance to network with attending faculty and the panelists. Garrett hopes the conversations extended beyond the small two-hour window of the event.

“Hopefully, this is just the beginning of many future conversations,” Garrett said.