“A medical education is wasted on women. They take up slots that could be used by men that would actually work!”

It sounds outrageous but a physician in my residency program actually said this to me and other women in the program. He was in the year behind me. We all made him pay dearly for that.

His point was that women are more likely to stop practicing early. Or not practice at all. Or only work part time. And he was right, even if I hated him for saying it out loud.

Women have different priorities. But does that mean we should be excluded from the profession?

I paid off my student loans in three years so that I would not be a slave to my education. You would not know I was a physician by how I live because I am saving everything I can for early retirement or temporary sabbatical.

I have been practicing full time for ten years and truthfully I did not think I would stick it out this long. The fact that I am even considering another ten years is surprising to me. But even if I quit today, I would like to think that I was worth the investment, that I helped enough people to warrant my education. It takes courage to show up every day and work this hard!

And for those female physicians who choose to work part time or who have quit practicing, your education was not a waste either. You have helped male physicians that you work with see and understand more of our perspective. You have served as role models for other women and highlighted the importance of family and children in our lives. Your decision was not a wrong one.

If we are more likely to leave medicine or less likely to work full-time, then maybe there should be two slots for women for every spot for a man?


8 thoughts on “Disparity

  1. How did you pay off your student loans so quickly?? Would you mind sharing tips/advice on doing that because I would like to do the same so that I’m not tied down by debt and have the freedom to pursue things that I would not be able to otherwise?

    Also, I agree with your sentiment: 2 slots women for 1 slot man. 🙂


    • I just made the loans a priority. I think I paid 2-3 times the principle each month. If I got a production bonus, maybe 1/2 would go to that. I still splurged on a big overseas vacation each year (until the kids) so I could still feel like I was “rich” and because the pager and cell phone didn’t work there. It is probably easier to live with little if you never had a lot to start with.


  2. I hope you like an honest opinion, because I deeply disagree that this young physician was right in any aspect of what he said. We are no longer in the 50thees.

    I know men who go home at four o’clock every day due to their kids, and I know woman who do the same. I know men who is working part time and I know woman who do. If you have actually come as far as finished your degree I have a hard time believing that gender is what is deciding if you give up your career or not. And if anyone would have uttered those words in a professional setting in my corporate world, they would get in serious trouble. And in my opinion the person would also deserve it.

    I have an executive position, where I am a financial advisor to the head of directors, and I would like to think I got there due to my skills and professionalism, and not because I am a woman and are filling some quota. How will we ever receive the respect for our work later on if we demand to receive special treatment in the beginning? In my profession there is no doubt more men then woman, but it is a profession that historically appeal to more men, and because females are not fit. I hope woman are realizing their own worth and therefore not seeing it necessary for quota. And any smart being will see the benefits of equality in any profession. Get the best person for the roles and positions regardless of gender.

    When that said, I respect your decision to leave or stay, regardless of the reason. As I would with any man if he decided to leave his profession. It is hard working long hours for decades and I have recently taken my own decision as well. I decided to quit my well paid job to go volunteering. It was a decision that was personally important to me. I might get back to the corporate world. We will see…

    ~ Annie ~


    • Thank you for your opinion! I wish you luck in your new role.

      Several thoughts in response. First, this is the US. We are not nearly as progressive as Norway. That is something for us to be embarrassed about. We make it difficult to parent. Time off to care for children is generally frowned upon for either parent but especially for the father and there is terrible social stigma for stay at home dads.

      While you disagree with the statement that my coworker made, all of the physicians that I know who have left the profession are all women and they left for their kids. Should it have to be that way? No! But is. I don’t think that there is harm in acknowledging it and discussing it. Too many of my male colleagues have absolutely no idea what female physicians go through, particularly if they are single or do not have a grandparent who is willing to be on call for childcare needs. And that is why I write about it here.

      I struggle every day with this. I have thought often about quitting. When my son is sick and I have to cancel clinic, I get backlash from patients and from my corporate employers. I want to shout to them all, “F– you!” But I don’t quit. Why? Partly to stick it to this guy. Partly because I want my daughter to feel like she has the choice to pursue a career if she wants to, to make sure she has strong role models in her life. And for my son, to help him understand and be supportive of women in his life. And for other women that I work with, to help them out if they need to cancel clinic to care for a sick kid.

      In the end, I can’t just walk away at 4PM. For obvious reasons. But I do utilize a nontraditional clinic schedule to make extra time for my kids.

      Lastly, your point about quotas is well taken. My own comment was more tongue and cheek than desire for specific policy change in that respect and I am certain that was also Z’s intent.


      • Thank you! And your discussion is really interesting.
        I think what you are pointing out, that females have different values then men, are absolutely right. In Norway as well. And you are also right that things are different here in many aspects. I do not say this blindfolded, because I used to date an American man for many years ago. American men have much to teach the Norwegians men as well. I can count on one hand how many times a Norwegian man has pulled out my chair. So give me someone that will respect equality and know how to treat a woman as a lady! Someone once told me that men from the UK are like that? But what do I know….

        I absolutely support your openness about females in the professional roles. It should be pushed up to the light and not swept under the rug. But females also need to step up and realize our own responsibility to change it. Easier said than done, I know. I think the stigma very much exists in most societies. Early in my career I found myself in a position where I asked for a raise, and my boss at the time pulled out records of all the females in the company. I looked at him and asked if he was seeing me as a professional or as a skirt. And when he slightly red in the cheeks said off course a professional, I then replied that it was time that he treated me as one and paid me accordingly. And if he thought it was relevant what the other females in the company earned he had to think again. I left without my raise, but I had my dignity intact. Next company paid me what I was worth.

        Anyway, I think that you are proving yourself strong by wanting to be a good role model for your children. You also are protesting towards the stigma by teaching the next generation, which is respectful. And that proves persistency. In the end I hope you will do what makes you happy, even if you end up leaving. Life is too short to not pursue what is important to you I think. Maybe we should start proving our own worth by doing what makes us happy? And who really gives a damn about this young physician anyway? Enjoy your kids 🙂 you are lucky to have them.


      • Thank you! You added a lot to the discussion and I really do appreciate your thoughts. Some would say that equality in the workplace and being treated as a lady are mutually exclusive but I disagree!!!


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