Guest Columnists

Scrubs & Heels Summit 2023: Filling a void for women in GI


Women constitute about half of medical students and internal medicine residents, however, less than 20% of practicing gastroenterologists are female.1-3 This gender disparity arises from a multitude of factors including lack of effective mentoring, unequal leadership and career advancement opportunities, and pay inequity. In this context, The Scrubs & Heels Leadership Summit (S&H) was launched in 2022 focused on the professional and personal development of women in gastroenterology.

I had the great pleasure and honor of attending the 2023 summit which took place in February in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. There were nearly 200 attendees ranging from trainees to midcareer and senior gastroenterologists and other health care professionals from both academia and private practices across the nation. The weekend course was directed by S&H cofounders, Dr. Aline Charabaty and Dr. Anita Afzali, and cochaired by Dr. Amy Oxentenko and Dr. Aja McCutchen.

Dr. Noor Syed, GI&Hepatology News, Women in GI

Dr. Noor Syed

The 2-day summit opened with a presentation by Sally Helgesen, author of How Women Rise, describing the 12 common habits that often hold women back in career advancement, promotion, or opportunities. Dr. Aline Charabaty addressed the myth of women needing to fulfill the role of superwoman or have suprahuman abilities. Attendees were challenged to reframe this societal construct and begin to find balance and the reasonable choice to switch to part-time work and, as Dr. Aja McCutch emphasized, dial-down responsibilities to maintain wellness when life has competing priorities.

Dr. Amy Oxentenko shared her personal journey to success and instilled the importance of engaging with community and society at large. We then heard from Dr. Neena Abraham on how to gracefully embrace transitions in our professional lives, whether intentionally sought or natural progressions of a career. She encouraged attendees to control our own narrative and seek challenges that promote growth. We explored different practice models with Dr. Caroline Hwang and learned strategies of switching from academics to private practice or vice versa. We also heard from cofounder Dr. Anita Afzali on becoming a physician executive and the importance of staying connected to patient care when rising in ranks of leadership.

The second day opened with a keynote address delivered by Dr. Marla Dubinsky detailing her journey of becoming a CEO of a publicly-traded company while retaining her role as professor and chief of pediatric gastroenterology in a large academic institution. Attendees were provided with a master class on discovering ways to inspire our inner entrepreneur and highlighted the benefit of physicians, especially women, in being effective business leaders. This talk was followed by a talk by Phil Schoenfeld, MD, FACS, editor-in-chief of Evidence-Based GI for the American College of Gastroenterology. He spoke on the importance of male allyship for women in GI and shared his personal experiences and challenges with allyship.

The summit included a breakout session by Dr. Rashmi Advani designed for residents to hear tips on how to have a successful fellowship match and for fellows to embrace a steep learning curve when starting and included tips for efficiency. Additional breakout sessions included learning ergonomic strategies for positioning and scope-holding, vocal-cord exercises before giving oral presentations, and how to formulate a business plan and negotiate a contract.

We ended the summit with uplifting advice from executive coaches Sonia Narang and Dr. Dawn Sears who taught us the art of leaning into opportunities, mansizing aspirations, finding coconspirators for amplification of female GI leaders, and supporting our colleagues personally and professionally.


Next Article:

Transitions and growth