Increasing Female Urologists: Implications for Urology Practices

Urology Practice Management - October 2015, Vol 4, No 5 - Female Urologists
Rosemary Frei, MSc

It is an exciting and challenging time to be a female urologist, according to information from 3 senior executives of the Society of Women in Urology (SWIU) and other sources.

The Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) first-ever annual report on residents, “AAMC Report on Residents 2015,” which was released earlier this year, indicates that in 2013 and 2014, 23.6% of urology residents trained in North America are female.

Positive Influences

The rising proportion of women urology residents has positively influenced the learning environment, has increased the flexibility in working conditions, and has led to females practicing in all urology subspecialties, including male reproductive medicine.

“I found my attendings were more patient with everyone, not just the female residents, once they had female residents,” commented Elizabeth Williams, MD, SWIU President and a staff member of Urology Consultants, Ltd, in St Louis, MO. “There seemed to be less yelling and a bigger focus on articulating what they were doing. This was…my personal experience.”

Dr Williams also mentioned that members of her practice have the option of working a 4-day week instead of 5 days, that many urology practices have maternity leave policies, and that some practices also have paternity leave.

However, the increase in women entering the profession has not yet led to a significant rise in their numbers in clinical practice. According to data presented by Deborah J. Lightner, MD, Urology Professor, Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Medicine, at the 2015 American Urological Association annual meeting, women comprised only 7.7% of practicing urologists in 2014.

Dr Lightner also reported that approximately 83% of female urologists perform “big inpatient cases” versus 94% of male urologists, “further reducing [female urologists’] influence among peer partners.”

Furthermore, the proportion of females in urology faculty positions or other leadership roles is not increasing.

“For instance, there are 2 female [urology] faculty here at Yale, me and another woman. But some academic practices have none, and some have one.…The numbers are low,” Leslie M. Rickey, MD, immediate past president of SWIU, and Fellowship Director, Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, told Urology Practice Management. “If you look at all the professional fields, just because women are represented [in higher numbers], that’s not reflected in the leadership. Will it increase? I hope so.”

Increasing Female Urologists in Clinical Practice

SWIU President-Elect, Dolores J. Lamb, PhD, Director, Center for Reproductive Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, said that although 20 or 30 years ago female urologists specialized primarily in female and pediatric urology, today many female urologists practice general urology, and some specialize in urologic oncology and male reproductive medicine and surgery.

“Although some male patients may be embarrassed to have a woman examine them, in reality this is less of an issue for patients than one might expect. And certainly women frequently have male gynecologists who examine them, so having a physician of the opposite gender isn’t unusual in other specialties,” Dr Lamb said.

“With such superb, talented women successfully competing for urology residency and fellowship subspecialty training slots, it is inevitable that eventually more women will serve in leadership positions, both in academic and clinical medicine as well as in society leadership,” she said.

Society of Women in Urology to Focus on Men’s Health

Indeed, the SWIU’s 5th Annual Clinical Mentoring Conference in January 2016 will focus on men’s health. The annual meetings also provide a formal and informal forum for networking and mentoring. For example, there will be a leadership training session at the 2016 meeting led by a former Navy SEAL.

“This session isn’t just for someone who is in a leadership position, or even for someone who wants to have or has a formal title, but it will provide coaching and skills in leadership,” said Dr Rickey. “This will provide some of those skills that will be valuable in the workplace and beyond, in terms of management and negotiation, communication, etc. I think that’s valuable to people at all different career levels.”

Dr Williams added that she and others in the organization are creating a mentor–mentee program. “We are actively trying to formulate a more definitive mentoring program for young female urologists,” said Dr Williams. “We would like to be able to match any interested young urologist with a senior female urologist who has had a similar career pathway and goals.”

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Last modified: October 13, 2015
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