Dr. Amy S. Gottlieb is the Distinguished Professor for Women’s Health for the Society of General Internal Medicine Annual Meeting 2022. Dr. Gottlieb is Professor of Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs at University of Massachusetts, Chan-Baystate, and Chief Faculty Development Officer of Baystate Health.
Reflections on a Career Advocating for Women Physicians and Faculty
Gender-based pay inequity in medicine has been well-documented, but concrete strategies for addressing it are lacking. We asked Dr. Amy Gottlieb, Editor of Closing the Gender Pay Gap in Medicine: A Roadmap for Healthcare Organizations and the Women Physicians Who Work for Them,1 former Chair of SGIM’s Women and Medicine Commission, and Chair-Elect of the Group on Women in Medicine and Science (GWIMS) of the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) to reflect on her career in advocacy, her interest in gender equity, and “lessons learned” as a leader in academic medicine.
Not a Typical Path
Dr. Gottlieb’s undergraduate training in Economics and her experience working in Corporate Finance in New York City provided her with a unique lens with which to view gender inequities in medicine. Her early career efforts were focused on improving health care for marginalized populations and developing curricula to educate providers about often-overlooked health concerns, such as Intimate Partner Violence. She joined the Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) in 2005 hoping it would provide a community of colleagues and an organizational home for her professional interests. As her career continued to unfold, she noticed “gaps” in leadership opportunities for women physicians nationally, prompting her to establish the SGIM Career Advising Program (CAP) in 2013. This program, dedicated to advancing the careers of women physicians through sponsorship and networking, has impacted more than 360 SGIM faculty. During our conversation, Dr. Gottlieb drew a parallel between finance and medicine, noting that “the inequities we see (in medicine) are a confluence of traditional business practices and outdated gender expectations.”
Finding a Career Focus that “Feels Right”
Dr. Gottlieb believes in the power of Ikigai, which may be defined as one’s reason for living, and as a convergence of one’s personal passion, vocation, profession, and mission. Ikagai is a concept that perfectly describes her efforts to combine her understanding of business practices, her energy for advocacy, and her medical knowledge into a fulfilling career. Dr. Gottlieb remarked that writing her book was the “first time in my life where all my professional experiences truly came together.” She was excited to wake up early and work on a project to address the root causes of gender-based pay inequity, noting that “this problem is not unique to medicine.” Her background in finance, as well as her ability to communicate with thought leaders outside of medicine, allowed her to approach the problem of pay inequity in a novel way. She recommends that physicians choose a career focus that allows them to channel their skills and passions into an endeavor, big or small, that they believe “could benefit the world.”
The Importance of “Finding Your People”
Dr. Gottlieb acknowledges that membership in SGIM has had a profound influence on her, stating that “Everything that I have accomplished in my career stems from my involvement in SGIM.” Dr. Gottlieb notes that SGIM provides opportunities for developing creative and unconventional initiatives around “ideas that one is passionate about” and for fostering deep connections with physicians and faculty across the country. In particular, SGIM allowed her to join a “community of women who advance and support other women,” which helped to sustain and inspire her throughout her career. She emphasized the importance of women physicians encouraging each other while working towards systems-based change in medicine and reminding themselves that even small gains in addressing gender disparities are meaningful.
“Lessons Learned” about Gender-Based Pay Inequity
Gender-based pay inequity is “everywhere,” not just in the United States, and solutions need to focus on organizational change. Second generation bias, manifesting as unconscious expectations around how women’s work is assigned and valued in our institutions, underlies many of the compensation disparities in medicine as well as in other industries. While closing the gender pay gap may seem a daunting problem, Dr. Gottlieb recommends being hopeful, noting that “organizational progress can be very incremental, but it is beginning to bend toward equity.”
As the Distinguished Professor for Women’s Health for the SGIM 2022 Annual Meeting, Dr. Gottlieb will be giving her Keynote Lecture on Friday, April 8, 2022, at 3:45 pm Eastern Time. Check the annual meeting program for the final location.
- Gottlieb A. Closing the Gender Gap in Medicine: A Roadmap for Healthcare Organizations and the Women Physicians Who Work for Them. New York: Springer; 2021.
- Levine R. Book review: Closing the gender gap in medicine. SGIM Forum. https://connect.sgim.org/sgimforum/viewdocument/book-review-closing-the-gender-gap. Published July 2021. Accessed March 15, 2022.
- Garcia H, Miralles F. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life. London, UK: Penguin Life; 2017, hc.
- SGIM. 2022 annual meeting: Distinguished professor special series. https://connect.sgim.org/annualmeeting/program/distinguished-professor. Accessed March 15, 2022.
Advocacy, Leadership, Administration, & Career Planning, Medical Education, Sex and Gender-Informed Medicine, SGIM, Social Determinants of Health, Women's Health
Dr. McNamara (email@example.com) is a professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Dr. Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a clinical instructor in general internal medicine at the University of Washington Roosevelt Women’s Health Care Center. Dr. Kwolek (email@example.com) is an assistant professor of medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital. All co-authors are members of the SGIM Women and Medicine Commission.
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