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A Message To Future Female Physicians

It was less than 100 years ago, that on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment to the US Constitution was passed giving women the right to vote.  Since that time, women have risen in prominence and received increased recognition in the arts and sciences.  The opportunities available to women today are paving the way for increased leadership by women as CEOs, in politics as well as medicine. 

On Feb 3rd, we celebrate National Women Physician’s Day with Elizabeth Blackwell being the inspiration for the inauguration of this holiday in 2016.  Elizabeth Blackwell was the first women to obtain a medical degree in the US on January 23, 1849.  Currently, women make up 37 percent of the healthcare workforce as physicians.  This is a remarkable number of women who have achieved this collective goal in approximately 150 years.   For future women physicians, be inspired and be prepared to work hard, sacrifice, stay humble and do not forget to self-care.

Work Hard

As a physician, one will have to dedicate oneself to a lifelong educational endeavor.  With a spirit of dedication and hard work, there will be reward.  There will be days which will bring confidence with making one’s first diagnosis on a patient independently.  Yet, hard work and dedication will be a necessary service which will be a calling.  There will be days when the day will go for more than 24 hours to ensure all of your patients are cared for adequately. 

Be Ready for Sacrifices

As a female physician, one is a women, friend, wife and mother.   At times, wearing all of these hats simultaneously will prove impossible.  The role one plays as a physician requires both professionalism and an enormous sense of responsibility.  When in clinic or in hospital, the patient will come first.  One’s childcare will be outsourced to other providers (childcare centers, nannies, relatives) and one may miss their child’s first smile, their first step or their first word, this is a part of the self-sacrifice.  Yet, every minute one does spend with one’s family or friends is a blessing and greatly celebrated.

Stay Humble

To have the opportunity to treat patients is a privilege and not an opportunity which everyone is granted.  Respect this privilege.  In the healthcare setting, one must know one is part of a larger team working toward a shared goal of helping a patient.  Be humble and learn how to listen and work as a team.  Treat your colleagues and patients with civility.  It is rudimentary to acknowledge and recognize those who help you treat your patients, don’t forget others.


Without a doubt, healthcare professionals do put their lives at risk to help others.  There is risk of acquiring communicable diseases, psychological/physical burnout, among others.  One must be aware to take care of oneself, maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly … just as we prescribe for our patients.  Ultimately, being a physician is one aspect of our lives, our profession, and one must take the time to develop other interests outside of medicine.   Taking care of oneself allows us to be ready to take care of our patients with more energy and vigor.   

Women physicians should feel inspired by the many female role models that have preceded them in the last 150 years, those hundreds who have followed our first role model  Elizabeth Blackwell.  Furthermore, be aware of your privilege as a physician and continue to work hard, prepare for sacrifies, stay humble and do not forget about self-care.

Learn More About National Women Physicians Day.

About the author: 

Dr. Moran practices pathology at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  She completed an Internal Medicine Internship prior to entering Anatomic and Clinical Pathology Residency at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.  Following residency, she continued onto a Cytopathology Fellowship at Drexel Medical College.  She joined the University of Pennsylvania Health System in 2009 where she provides diagnostic pathology services, teaches medical students and represents the Department of Pathology in System Integration for Penn Medicine.  Her interests include biking, hiking, cooking and European film as well as reading fiction and non-fiction literature from mid-century to current Eastern European writers.