A Female Surgeon's Response to the New York Times' 'When the surgeon is a mom."

The New York Times posted an article which was about women in surgery entitled, “When the surgeon is a mom.” While it was well intentioned, it painted women as unfocused, sleep deprived, and lacking the support system any surgical resident would need to make it through five years of training. As a female surgeon who recently survived residency in the male-dominated world of surgery, here is my response.

Dear NYT,

Since you didn’t respond when I asked if we could reply to the article “When the surgeon is a mom,” I’m going to post it here. I have interviewed dozens of women in surgery, and women and men in medicine and other professions who read your article and formulated my response.

Your article correctly stated women in surgery face more challenges. However, we disagree with your anecdote about the female surgeon who looks at the clock while operating because she is worried about her sick child. When there are instruments in her hand, her focus is 100% on the patient. Additionally, concern for our families is not exclusive to women. Women AND men in medicine show up for our patients when our families need us too.

Before you state becoming a surgeon hurts the health of women’s families, consider interviewing their families. Ask their partners and kids if they’re happy and healthy. Interview our colleagues, our bosses, and our patients. Ask them if they think we deliver excellent care. Ask our surgical teams if we’re too exhausted or overwhelmed to perform in the OR.

The system needs to change, we agree. But we are the ones changing it by sharing our stories, by empowering other women, and by changing practices to find a supportive work environment. Publishing an article which shows us spread too thin only reinforces the bias that women can’t do it all.

Respectfully, you’re wrong NYT. We might outsource daily childcare, cooking, and cleaning. We can still be amazing parents and partners. Additionally, before stating that women “end up relying” on their partners, consider parenthood as a SHARED and NOT solely female responsibility! Before assuming an anecdote about a child calling the teacher “Mommy” and refusing to go home is the never-present surgeon mom’s fault, consider it is actually normal behavior (4 out of 5 children do this according to teachers).

All women in medicine and women in other professional fields are resilient, driven, and accomplished. With the right support system, We CAN. DO. IT. ALL.

Thanks for inspiring us to fight back, New York Times.

I am woman. Hear me roar!

For more information, be sure to follow Dr. Jambhekar, MD @ajvictorymd

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