GWIM Anniversary Event Commemorates 20 Years of Accomplishments

Posted in GUMC Stories

OCTOBER 24, 2014—Georgetown Women in Medicine (new window) (GWIM) marked its 20th anniversary this week at an event that captured the struggles, triumphs and milestones of women in medical professions to attain equity in leadership roles, compensation and career development opportunities.  

The Oct. 23 event drew more than 100 attendees from across campus to Georgetown’s Copley Hall. 

GWIM President Stacey Kaltman, PhD (new window), said that today’s GWIM was built on the shoulders of its founders and has grown from a grassroots organization into a highly accomplished and organized group.

She also noted the loss this year of two GWIM past presidents, Karen Gale, PhD, and Offie Soldin, Phd, MBA.

“Their memories, and the contributions they made to GWIM and in support of women faculty, motivate us to work hard, to achieve more and to aim higher,” Kaltman said.

Building a Pipeline

The event was headlined by a keynote lecture by Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD (new window), president and dean of Morehouse School of Medicine (new window).

Montgomery Rice focused on the importance of tailoring health care strategies to the needs of individual communities. The data show that factors such as education level and social position significantly impact people’s perceptions of their own health as well as their actual health indicators.

“Disparities are not inevitable. We just need to make sure that when we talk about people achieving health equity it is not limited to just access,” Montgomery Rice said. “This does not mean giving everyone the same thing. It means giving communities what they need.”

Montgomery Rice also emphasized the value of “cognitive diversity,” referring to the ways individuals think and the perspectives they bring forth, and not just demographic diversity. 

Embracing cognitive diversity is essential to fostering innovation in academic medical centers, she noted. GWIM’s mission to attain equity for women faculty is about building a pipeline that reflects this diversity—both of demographics and thought.

“When we focus on diversity of thought, that is when we begin to get the innovation and creativity,” she said. “This is about a pipeline you have to build and push people through.”

‘Open and Honest Dialogue’

In his welcome remarks, Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, PhD, reflected on GWIM’s two decades of history, and congratulated the organization for its “dedication to improving the professional lives of your colleagues” that so fully embodies Georgetown’s Jesuit principle of cura personalis, or “care of the whole person.”

“It is my hope, with the support of GWIM, that we as a University continue to have an open and honest dialogue about the issues that confront women in the workplace and how we can better foster an environment that enables career development for our entire faculty,” DeGioia said.

Insights from Women Leaders

GWIM also hosted a panel discussion moderated by Darrell G. Kirch, MD (new window), president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges (new window) (AAMC). Just last month, the AAMC’s Group on Women in Medicine and Science announced it would bestow (new window) its Leadership Development Award to GWIM at its annual meeting, making GWIM the only organization to receive this award twice.

The panel comprised Montgomery Rice, Barbara S. Bregman, PhD (new window), professor of neuroscience and rehabilitation medicine at GUMC, Patricia King, JD (new window), Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law, Medicine, Ethics and Public Policy at Georgetown University Law Center, and Marilee Cole, MD, DTMH (new window), former GWIM president and director of the Georgetown Global Health Elective in Cameroon.

Each panelist offered candid insights and lessons learned from throughout their experiences and careers.

Bregman, who in her 26-year tenure at Georgetown has held numerous leadership roles including chair of the department of neuroscience and associate dean for graduate education, summed up her lessons learned in a short list.

“Every voice matters. Look first for what’s right and positive before finding the obstacles. When possible, identify multiple solutions to any challenge. And try to ignore boundaries and build bridges,” she said.

King, whose professional experience before joining the law center was in civil rights, encouraged attendees to focus less on gender and more on how to have a career that is “fascinating, empowering and that can affect the lives of others.”

“We have to make our own way and not be hung up on whether we should ‘Lean In,’” King said, referencing the best-selling book (new window) about women and leadership by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. “We should pay more attention to advocating for those supports that women who work need.”

King said she wishes that current and future professional women “will not have to navigate some of the nasty periods, but that they will have the opportunity to have the mentors and support systems that will be necessary if we women are going to continue to advance and make our contributions to the world.”

Cole, who served as the second president of GWIM, noted how far medical women faculty have come at Georgetown in the 20 years since the organization’s founding, but also called on leadership from both GUMC and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital (MGUH) to continue to press for equity in salary and leadership positions.

“With persistent GWIM efforts and Georgetown Jesuit community’s blessing, more women faculty will aspire to and be promoted to Georgetown chairs in the not too distant future,” Cole said. “Leadership equity will be on its way.”

In closing the discussion, Kirch stressed that leadership is not exercised exclusively through traditional roles.

“There is a massive shift from traditional command and control leaders to what author Liz Wiseman calls ‘multipliers.’ Their skill is in bringing out the genius in the people around them,” Kirch said.

“You don’t have to be a dean to exercise leadership. You are in great positions to be multipliers—so take advantage of that.”

More Work to Do

Howard J. Federoff, MD, PhD (new window), executive vice president for health sciences at GUMC and executive dean of the School of Medicine, gave closing remarks, along with Lisa M. Boyle, MD, FACS (new window), vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer of MGUH and assistant professor of surgery at GUMC.

“It’s not often that people talk about their journeys in such an honest and authentic way, but you all did just that,” Federoff said.

Both Federoff and Boyle reaffirmed their personal and organizational commitment to ensuring that GWIM’s goals are met.

“While we continue to work on these issues, we are not done. We have more work to do together at every level. This is a spectacular organization and it has been my privilege to get to know all of you in the evolution of your success,” Federoff said.

By Lauren Wolkoff
GUMC Communications