Speaker highlights burnout at Women in Endocrinology annual meeting
NEW ORLEANS — The advocacy group Women in Endocrinology is once again holding its annual meeting and dinner at ENDO 2019, spotlighting member achievements in the field, trailblazing young investigators and mentors who have paved the way for women beginning their careers.
The dinner meeting, taking place Saturday at 6:30 p.m., will offer networking opportunities for attendees and honor several young investigators and members for mentorship and distinguished service.
Lila Nachtigall, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University School of Medicine and director of the interdisciplinary menopause study group, will serve as the group’s keynote speaker this year, touching on her decades-long career as a reproductive endocrinologist, her groundbreaking research in estrogen replacement therapy for women and on the obstacles she overcame as a woman in academic medicine.
Endocrine Today spoke with Nachtigall about her keynote talk, tackling the pressing issue of physician burnout and the importance of women helping other women.
Your talk is titled “Pursuit of a Successful and Meaningful Academic Career: How to Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too.” What does it mean to have a career that is successful and meaningful?
Nachtigall: I’m trying to tell women that, looking back now, I feel that my career was both. I want to help women in any way to carve out a similar path. Women need to balance life and a career, and that means different things for different people, but it can be particularly hard for women physicians. We work long hours. It is important for women to not be afraid to get help, and get the best help you can get. I talk about the help I have gotten along the way, from family, aides, everything. Don’t be afraid to get help or ashamed to get help.
My other big message is we seem to be suffering more from burnout now. In my day, we worked hours that were just as long, if not longer, but we didn’t have this burnout issue. In part, it is because we’ve lost our autonomy in medicine. We have third-party insurance companies telling us what to do. So much of what we now do is clerical work and not doctor work, and the studies reflect that.
A recent study published in January in JAMA showed that women physicians experience burnout about 15% more than men physicians do, and 50% of women were suffering from significant burnout. That is terrible. My appeal is that we have to get together and fight back and do something, and not just accept this.
How do women go about addressing the problem of physician burnout ?
Nachtigall: The National Academy of Physicians has organized a consortium to fight this in many ways. It has had a slow start, but if a lot of us from different organizations join them, we might be able to help with that. In addition, with the Endocrine Society, which has so many women physicians, we could start a localized groundswell. We have to get together and address this issue, and I will be making that point in my talk. Women can do better. We must do something.
What were some of the career obstacles you had to overcome, and what obstacles remain today ?
Nachtigall: When I first entered medicine, it was different. You had to be quiet. You couldn’t ask questions, and I’ll give some examples about that in my talk. Today, patients accept women physicians. In my time, they did not. However, on the high academic level, things have not really improved. Today, it remains much harder for a woman to go up the career ladder to become a full professor. One study recently showed that the percentage of women who go from professor to full professor is incredibly low, still. As women, we have to help other women move up. We are seeing many more women physicians, but we are not seeing them rise to the top.
Aside from burnout, what are some of the other challenges facing women entering endocrinology today?
Nachtigall: Endocrine in general is underfunded for research, and this can disproportionately affect women in research, who are entering endocrinology in increasing numbers. People perhaps do not take endocrine research as seriously as other specialties, and that needs to change.
Women have to work a little harder than men, and it will probably always be that way. Society itself, if not medicine itself, always asks the mother first to do a job, even when the father is able to do it. It is one of the points I feel will not change. That means we have to work around it. – by Regina Schaffer
For more information:
Access the Women in Endocrinology website at www.women-in-endo.org/.
Disclosure: Nachtigall reports no relevant financial disclosures.