ACEP19 dove right into thought-provoking topics with its opening general session “Perspectives From Female Physicians on Leadership, the Ascent of Women in Medicine and Women at the Forefront of Change.” Moderator Resa Lewiss, MD, FACEP, engaged a panel of woman leaders in EM in conversations about speaking out for positive change.
The panel, comprised of Dara Kass, MD, FACEP; Joneigh Khaldun, MD, FACEP; Megan Ranney, MD, MPH, FACEP; and Hiral Tipirneni, MD, focused on empowering the audience to become change makers in healthcare by explaining how their personal experiences have emboldened them to speak out. For all of the panelists, there was a shared desire to solve a persistent problem by being brave enough to challenge the status quo.
As Dr. Ranney, a renowned injury prevention researcher and founder of the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM), summarized the marriage of medicine and influence: “Science is super cool, but it’s only super cool if it’s used to create change.”
Dr. Tipirneni, who is running for U.S. Congress in Arizona, explained how her training as an emergency physician directly translates to politics. In the emergency department, she developed an ability to quickly connect with her patients and ask the right questions to diagnose the problem as fast as possible. Now she uses those skills outside the emergency department, building rapport and developing relationships in her community that help her cut through the noise and identify the key issues.
The panelists said they have developed their leadership voices over time. Dr. Kass joked that she “always had a voice,” but it wasn’t until she realized her own privilege that she felt empowered to use her voice to confront inequity and empower the less privileged. She realized her voice mattered. “Before, [my voice] was just loud,” Dr. Kass said. “Now it’s loud and proud.”
Dr. Khaldun, chief medical officer for the State of Michigan and chief deputy of the Michigan HHS, said she struggled with imposter syndrome when she was younger, but a life-threatening medical scare after the birth of her first child gave her new perspective. “I realized I’m supposed to be here,” adding later that imposter syndrome is not just a problem for women – it affects all genders, ethnicities, etc. “We all deserve to be here,” Dr. Khaldun said.
Dr. Ranney has become a more vocal leader over time and with much practice. She had mentors who encouraged her and remembers specific moments, like the Sandy Hook shooting, that prompted her to be more outspoken. Still, it didn’t happen overnight. “Having a voice is a muscle,” she explained.
All four panelists agreed that the most pressing issue in healthcare is inequity. It starts with equity – or lack thereof – because that imbalance causes ripple effects that build into tsunami-size problems of access and cost.
Jordan Grantham is a communications manager at ACEP.