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Letters to the Editor

Effectively Mentoring Physician–Mothers

Lechner, Beatrice E. MD; Gottlieb, Amy S. MD; Taylor, Lynn E. MD

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doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181bee79a
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To the Editor:

Mentoring that addresses the particular challenges of combining a medical career with motherhood is critical to improving advancement and career satisfaction among women in medicine. Currently, most mentoring programs focus on classical aspects of junior faculty development such as grant-writing and the promotion process. However, these programs do not address the reality that female physician–parents are providing the majority of child care and management in their homes and thus parsing their energy between professional and personal commitments in a way male physician–parents are not. This phenomenon undoubtedly contributes to the inadequate advancement of women in medicine and is underscored by findings of a survey we recently conducted of the 128 members of the Rhode Island/Southern Massachusetts physician–mother mentoring/networking group, MomDocFamily (64% response rate). Most of our respondents were early to midcareer physician–mothers with young children and consequently were in the most challenging phases of their careers and personal lives. We learned that only 1% of the respondents had a partner who did not work outside the home and only 3% had a partner who worked less than full-time. Only 6% and 4% of respondents reported that their partners were more responsible than the physician–mothers in terms of household duties and child care, respectively. An expected consequence of tending to these demands is surely decreased time devoted to professional endeavors and possibly diminished career success.

To acknowledge and address such gender inequities in the workplace, we in academic medicine and the medical profession as a whole must develop innovative mentoring programs and workplace infrastructure that support physicians who are mothers. Structural change should involve increased availability of flexible work schedules, improved access to child care and lactation facilities in the workplace, and standardized paid maternity (and paternity) leave policies across institutions. Additionally, via large mentoring networks such as MomDocFamily (, women in medicine will gain access to the support necessary for success and personal satisfaction both at work and at home and the opportunity to assist one another in achieving traditional benchmarks for success in the arenas of research, publications, nomination to influential editorial board positions, and equitable compensation.

Beatrice E. Lechner, MD

Assistant professor of pediatrics, The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and staff neonatologist, Women and Infants’ Hospital of Rhode Island, Providence, Rhode Island; ([email protected]).

Amy S. Gottlieb, MD

Co-director, MomDocFamily, assistant professor of medicine and obstetrics and gynecology (clinical), The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and director of primary care curricula and consultation, Women's Primary Care Center, Women and Infants’ Hospital of Rhode Island, Providence, Rhode Island.

Lynn E. Taylor, MD

Co-director, MomDocFamily, assistant professor of medicine (research), Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and director, HIV/Hepatitis C Coinfection Program, Miriam Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island.

© 2009 Association of American Medical Colleges