Women in Medicine Summit

Women in Medicine Summit


Manning K, Wooten L. “Navigating Through Adversity.” Presented at: Women in Medicine Summit (virtual). Oct. 9-10, 2020.

Disclosures: Healio Gastroenterology could not confirm the presenters’ relevant financial disclosures prior to publication.
October 15, 2020
3 min read

Navigating adversity crucial to setting goals, reducing burnout


Manning K, Wooten L. “Navigating Through Adversity.” Presented at: Women in Medicine Summit (virtual). Oct. 9-10, 2020.

Disclosures: Healio Gastroenterology could not confirm the presenters’ relevant financial disclosures prior to publication.
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Adversity may come in many different settings. It could be on the first day of an internship or in the middle of a video conference. It is not a matter of if, but when an individual will face adversity.

In their presentation for the Women in Medicine Summit, Lawren Wooten, MS, a third year medical student at Georgetown University, and Kimberly Manning, MD, a professor at Emory University School of Medicine, discussed how adversity can impact people in the medical field and a few strategies on how to handle adverse situations.

Kimberly Manning
Kimberly Manning

“Adversity is impossible to avoid, particularly in high stress environments like medicine,” Wooten said. “It’s also subjective and significantly impacted by external factors, like our own perceptions.”

What may seem like a tough situation to one person may not be for someone else, she said.

Beyond just being part of a tough situation, Manning said adversity can have a significant impact on people in the medical field, particularly among women.

“It can rob you of potential,” she said. “Imposter syndrome is relevant. It impacts women and people who are underrepresented in medicine. To be reminded of your inadequacies so blatantly, and sometimes indirectly, can double down on that imposter syndrome.”

After going through a few examples of inhospitable interactions between a resident and medical student that might occur during a rotation, the presenters discussed how individuals can navigate through adversity in the moment and after.


In cases of adversity, Wooten said it is important to take some time to consider self-reflection and think about your own accountability in a situation. However, this self-assessment cannot turn into self-doubt.

“Is it a ‘me’ problem? What’s my role in this situation? Do I have control?” she said. “It’s important as women, though, that we don’t turn time for self-reflection into time for self-deprecation. Do not trivialize your experience or diminish it. Just because you’re part of a team, a group or a one-on-one relationship, does not mean there’s fault on both sides.”


Ensuring one’s own safety is crucial in adverse situations. That might mean speaking up if it is appropriate or if the individual is comfortable doing so. It could also mean taking additional steps if the adversity rises to a certain level, Wooten said.

“Document objectively when something happens — what day, time, where, who was there — just in case you need to report it,” she said. Sharing thoughts and getting confirmation from trusted friends, colleagues or mentors can be beneficial in navigating difficult situations.

“Do not suffer alone,” Wooten said. “It’s likely someone else has experienced something either in the same situation or something very similar and can support you through that.

Support amid difficulty can help you regain focus and confidence.”

Outside factors, next steps

After time for self-reflection comes time for thinking about where the other party in an adverse situation might be coming from. Wooten said it is important to think about what expectations were coming in and how external forces might be shaping the interaction.

“Your perceptions might be different from the other person’s,” she said. “Acknowledging their perceptions does not mean invalidating your own.”

Taking all these factors into account, individuals can identify what steps they need to take to handle future adversity.

“Adversity can have really significant mental health impacts, like stress, prolonged anxiety, even depression or burnout,” Wooten said. “Having a plan with realistic goals is really important in the moment and also in preparation of future situations.”

Manning also outlined how people outside specific interactions, particularly those in leadership positions, can help others navigate adversity.

“Depending on what your resources are, what your leadership role is, who you have access to and how you can intervene, you may be the person who can intervene most quickly, or in a revised plan, you may need to step up into a different place,” she said. “Thinking about your role as a leader will be really important to navigating an adverse event.”