Issue: January 2022
Source: Healio Interview
Disclosures: Afzali reports consulting and being on the advisory board for Abbvie, Arena Pharmaceuticals, Bristol Myers Squibb, DiaSorin, Eli Lilly, Gilead, Janssen, Pfizer, Takeda, TLL Pharmaceuticals, is a speaker for Abbvie, Bristol Myers Squibb, Janssen, Pfizer, Takeda and is a co-founder of IBD Horizons and Scrubs & Heels, LLC. Charabaty reports consulting for and is on the advisory board for Abbvie, BMS, Janssen, Pfizer and Takeda and is the founder of @MondayNightIBD and co-founder of Scrubs & Heels, LLC.
December 27, 2021
6 min read
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Three questions with Scrubs & Heels

Issue: January 2022
Source: Healio Interview
Disclosures: Afzali reports consulting and being on the advisory board for Abbvie, Arena Pharmaceuticals, Bristol Myers Squibb, DiaSorin, Eli Lilly, Gilead, Janssen, Pfizer, Takeda, TLL Pharmaceuticals, is a speaker for Abbvie, Bristol Myers Squibb, Janssen, Pfizer, Takeda and is a co-founder of IBD Horizons and Scrubs & Heels, LLC. Charabaty reports consulting for and is on the advisory board for Abbvie, BMS, Janssen, Pfizer and Takeda and is the founder of @MondayNightIBD and co-founder of Scrubs & Heels, LLC.
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Scrubs & Heels, a new initiative created by women for women in the field of gastroenterology, aims to empower women with the professional and personal skills and networking tools to continue to succeed in their own career paths of interest.

“We want to highlight that female gastroenterologists only make up about 18% to 20% of practicing gastroenterologists in the field, and unfortunately each year we have a high attrition of women for many reasons, including but certainly not limited to issues related to pay discrepancy, promotion and leadership opportunities, grant funding, job fulfillment and satisfaction, and many other barriers related to the already well-described gender gaps for women in medicine,” Anita Afzali, MD, MPH, told Healio Gastroenterology. “So, hopefully looking back 10 years from now, we could say that we all have helped with raising awareness and creating change for one another, and we hope we can support, empower and collaborate with each other along this journey.”

Healio Gastroenterology spoke with Afzali and Aline Charabaty, MD, co-founders of Scrubs & Heels, about what they hope to accomplish with this new initiative.

Healio: Why is Scrubs & Heels as a society different from others?

Afzali: Well first, we don’t see Scrubs & Heels as a “society” in the traditional term where there is a separation between those who lead the society and the “members” of the society. We see it more as a community, a tribe of women and male allies and sponsors, who help create an opportunity for mutual growth - professional and personal growth - for everyone, at any stage and any aspect of their career path. Our intent with Scrubs & Heels is to create and develop a full tribe of women within the gastroenterology field. We hope to pull together all women in the field to discuss, explore and collaborate, and to learn and grow from one another. We each have created our own career journey based on our individual personal and professional interests. Scrubs & Heels offers the network and community for all of us to share, inspire, and collaborate. We hope to not only pay it forward, but to also help in the efforts to learn from each other’s career journeys and paved paths, as an opportunity for professional and self-development. Again, it's not so much why is Scrubs & Heels different, but in what ways can Scrubs & Heels work alongside our GI Societies to ensure we can continue the efforts and carry the conversation forward throughout the year — every time, every day — with a full tribe of empowerd women, as well as allies and sponsors, ready to empower more women.

Charabaty: The main mission of Scrubs & Heels is to help women build a successful and rewarding career in GI. We recognize that to achieve this career goal, we need to nurture and align both professional and personal growth. Our mission is to give women the tools to address the many barriers in their professional life but also to encourage them to design a career that is integrated with their personal life, needs and values. I see Scrubs & Heels as a safe and strong space where women and their allies come together and learn from each other, empower each other with the skills and the tools to design and grow a career that aligns with their vision and their many talents. A space where women can network effectively with clinicians, researchers, industry, GI society leaders and thought leaders in the field, and discuss career development ideas and gather concrete steps and allies to achieve their goals. A space where women and their allies embrace and promote women in GI, help them find their inner leader qualities and strengths and encourage them to be everything they are — clinicians, researchers, innovators, leaders, writers, advocate, policy makers, business owners, and everything else in between.

The inaugural Scrubs & Heels Summit, happening in March 2022, in Miami, Florida, was created as an annual opportunity for women to find and amplify their voices at any stage of their journey, and to build a strong supportive network of allies to help their career move forward. We envision that people will come back to the Summit every year, grow their tribe but also help others grow. We envision that those who were mentored and sponsored by the Scrubs & Heels community will in turn mentor and sponsor others, that those who attended the Summit will come back in future years as faculty to share their experience and expertise.

The overall concept is one of mutual growth, where empowered women empower other women, lift up each other and celebrate each other’s successes.

Healio: What can women and men allies expect from the Scrubs & Heels apart from the Summit?

Charabaty: The Summit is our big kickoff event and our annual get together, but we have so much more planned throughout 2022 and beyond. We believe in building lasting and strong relationships and in providing continuous and diverse support through different activities to ensure women in GI build their own success story. We are establishing a mentorship program that is different from how mentorship has been traditionally approached and quite innovative as a concept. We have created a matrix mentorship that aligns with our vision of providing 360 support and resources to women in GI. Mentees will be provided with mentorship and sponsorship as well as professional coaching during the course of one year and establish professional relationships with leaders in academics and private practice, women and men allies and a professional coach. This mentorship program was made possible with support from Janssen Immunology.

We are also very excited to partner with Healio on a podcast series to discuss and address topics that are relevant to women in GI, from negotiating a contract or a promotion, to pregnancy and family life balance, to a discussion of nontraditional career paths in GI.

Afzali: Scrubs & Heels will continue to offer a lot of excitement and initiatives that will remain in alignment with our mission. The inaugural Summit in March 2022 is the launch, and our Scrubs & Heels Tribe will continue with efforts on collaboration and empowerment. We have developed a Matrix Mentorship program, as described above, which allows an opportunity for those seeking and wanting to learn how to navigate a different pathway or to further develop a particular aspect of their career journey, to be a participant. Also, with our media partnership with Healio, we will launch quarterly newsletters to highlight key topics and practical, professional and personal development tools, as well as regular podcasts to discuss, explore and learn from each other. We will highlight the many amazing women in the field of gastroenterology, again in an effort to learn from each other and help build, lift, inspire and support one another. We hope through continuous learning and improvement, conversations and practical discussions, we could help make each of our journeys a fun and fulfilling one, where we are all able to be our full 360 selves.

Healio: What are you hoping to accomplish with the initiation of Scrubs & Heels?

Afzali: As women in the field of gastroenterology, we need to empower and support one another, and that is what I hope we can accomplish with Scrubs % Heels. With that philosophy, I'd like for us to be able to help one another, build one another, collaborate and inspire one another, and learn from and teach one another. We often feel that there is only one seat at the table, but there is a room full of empty chairs, let’s learn how we can pull in all the chairs and make a bigger table! The intent of Scrubs & Heels is purely to create a tribe of women, to feel empowered, supported, valued and respected. To be paid equitably, recognized equitably and have opportunities distributed equitably. Instead of an annual attrition of women in the field, I hope we can strengthen our numbers and attract more women into gastroenterology and medicine.

Charabaty: The common thread of what we want to accomplish with Scrubs & Heels: encourage women to choose (and remain in) a career in GI, help them find their own voice and success and for all of us to keep the joy in what we do!

  • Give women the tools and the confidence to be successful in the career of their choice.
  • Give women the skills and the networking opportunity to reach leadership positions in their practice, institution, GI societies, editorial board, or start their own innovative enterprise.
  • Go a step further, and help women design their own career path. Traditional GI careers have been designed by men and for men, and do not take into account the many life events of women, their need for flexibility as well as their values and talents.
  • Hopefully, together, move toward closing the gender gap in medicine, in terms of equal pay and leadership opportunities and everything else in between.
  • And truly create a supportive strong community, where women see each other as a source of inspiration and support. Where woman feel empowered to empower other women, understanding there is enough room at the table for all, and it is only by working together that we can successfully move the field of GI and medicine in the right direction , towards inclusivity and equity, and find contentment in our careers and personal lives.
  • Reveal to everyone what amazing things women in GI can do and what value they bring to the field when we amplify their voice and vision.