Monkey bars and ladders
Myron Yaster MD
Rebecca D Margolis, Laura K Berenstain, Norah Janosy, Samuel Yanofsky, Sean Tackett, Jamie McElrath Schwartz, Jennifer K Lee, Nina Deutsch, Jina L Sinskey. Grow and Advance through Intentional Networking: A pilot program to foster connections within the Women's Empowerment and Leadership Initiative in the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia. Paediatr Anaesth. 2021 Sep;31(9):944-952 PMID: 34166544
Allison Fernandez MD, MBA: YouTube channel: Women of Impact in Anesthesiology!
At a conference I went to a couple of years ago, the speaker explained that one of the differences of how men and women get to the top of their professions: men go directly up ladders and women often use monkey bars…that is, they take many alternate routes before ultimately reaching the top. Today’s PAAD is about the challenges and opportunities for women in pediatric anesthesiology in reaching the top. Both the article and the new YouTube channel are outstanding and written (or in Allison Fernandez’s case directed) by the leading figures in faculty development, wellness, mentoring, sponsorship, and women’s professional empowerment.
Gender equity in academic medicine is an ongoing issue; although women make up 48% of medical school graduates, they constitute only 25% of full professors at academic institutions. As bad as this disparity is in medicine and surgery in general, it has been particularly terrible in anesthesiology. Mentorship and sponsorship are vital to narrowing this gap.1 A key to faculty and professional advancement is the building of professional networks. Anesthesiology, because of the “siloed nature of anesthesia practice rarely allows for social opportunities common to other medical specialties, such as attendance at lectures or daily patient rounds. Even within the operating room environment, opportunities for social interaction with other anesthesia colleagues are often limited. The shift in academic medicine at many institutions to a private practice model, wherein attendings work alone in operating rooms as opposed to supervising trainees, has further exacerbated isolation in an environment that traditionally encouraged interaction through teaching and shared care”.2
Around 2018, the “three musketeers”, Drs. Jenny Lee, Nina Deutsch, and Jamie Schwartz developed The Women’s Empowerment and Leadership Initiative (WELI) using the resources and umbrella of the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia. From the website: “WELI is dedicated to assisting women in pediatric anesthesiology with gaining skills, knowledge, confidence, and opportunities to achieve their career goals. A key component of this mission is to pair/partner participating women (the protégés) with a volunteer leader in the pediatric anesthesia community. These leaders have a history of faculty mentoring and personal career success, and they work more closely to assist protégés in their specific area of interest. We call these leaders WELI ‘advisors’, and they use aspects of both advising and mentoring when working with their WELI protégés. Additionally, advisors and protégés participate in twice-yearly skills workshops led by executive advisors and are provided other outside resources on achieving success in academic medicine”( https://weli.pedsanesthesia.org/ ). The program has been spectacularly successful.3,4
And then came COVID throwing a wrench into the process. How do you build person-to-person networking, mentoring, and sponsorship when physical distancing and travel restriction made this impossible? The WELI team developed an alternative model, “Grow and Advance through Intentional Networking” (GAIN) which uses virtual facilitated networking sessions (ZOOM) within WELI, and they report their results in this article. Indeed, the new model may in some ways be better than the original. “Professional medical and specialty societies can fulfill this need at the national level, but their meetings generally occur only one to two times yearly. Given that personal connection is vital to establishing a successful mentoring relationship, we structured the GAIN program with the goal of promoting a sense of community. As WELI GAIN sessions occur approximately monthly, are offered at multiple different times during each month, and can be attended from any location, members have a greater ability to participate than they would at national meetings. This accessibility also enhances the goal of promoting a sense of community.”
Perhaps the biggest problem with WELI and GAIN is that it is almost too successful and the number of participants is limited. Hopefully this team can build on their success in the future, with continued efforts at inclusion of underrepresented minorities of both genders as well.
Myron Yaster MD
1. Travis EL, Doty L, Helitzer DL: Sponsorship: a path to the academic medicine C-suite for women faculty? Acad Med 2013; 88: 1414-7
2. Margolis RD, Berenstain LK, Janosy N, Yanofsky S, Tackett S, Schwartz JM, Lee JK, Deutsch N, Sinskey JL: Grow and Advance through Intentional Networking: A pilot program to foster connections within the Women's Empowerment and Leadership Initiative in the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia. Paediatr Anaesth 2021; 31: 944-952
3. Schwartz JM, Markowitz SD, Yanofsky SD, Tackett S, Berenstain LK, Schwartz LI, Flick R, Heitmiller E, Fiadjoe J, Lee HH, Honkanen A, Malviya S, Cladis FP, Lee JK, Deutsch N: Empowering Women as Leaders in Pediatric Anesthesiology: Methodology, Lessons, and Early Outcomes of a National Initiative. Anesth Analg 2021
4. Schwartz JM, Wittkugel E, Markowitz SD, Lee JK, Deutsch N: Coaching for the pediatric anesthesiologist: Becoming our best selves. Paediatr Anaesth 2021; 31: 85-91
PS: Jenny, Nina, Jamie, and Allison were all my former residents and fellows. Rebecca and Norah are current mentees. I am awed, really blown away and inspired by their accomplishments and success. This is best summed up by a famous quote from the Talmud: “I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues and most from students.” MY