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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Parsons, MD

The Things I WISH I Had Learned in Medical School

Updated: May 20, 2018

I started this blog with the goal of reaching out to young women entering the field of medicine. I wanted to share my experiences, the things I learned often by failure, the things I WISH I had learned in medical school. Not histology or anatomy. Not drug interactions. Not even how to comfort a patient after using the word cancer. But the personal and social hurdles that we encounter being a female in medicine. Blog goal: Let me introduce you to some of them. If you are informed, instead of blindsided by these hurdles, you may be able to simply soar over them.

So here's my short story.

I entered medical school naïve. I believed that men and women were equal. That boys and girls were equal. That I could do anything that any guy could do, and for the most part, probably better. I was a "tomboy" growing up. I spent weekends in hunting or fishing at my father’s side – mostly in boys’ clothing. I promised my mother, the regional president of a bank and extremely successful woman, I would never take a job that required pantyhose and high heels (that is still true - I wear glorified PJs to work). I played soccer with the boys and tackled just as hard. I outsmarted boys in science and math in addition to the artsier studies that are stereotypically more feminine. I caught fish and lobster better than my guy friends. I truly did not see much of a gender gap. I was called bossy my entire life, and I just assumed it was my personal character flaw. I tried to be less outspoken, to be less outgoing, to be quiet. It was not natural. Not me. And so I entered medical school - naïve. But I finished my medical training with my eyes open wide to the effects of gender.

I still inherently believe that I can do anything a man can do, and if I try hard enough, better. But I know that the world does NOT see it that way. That we are not there yet. Our gender biases are deeply rooted and hard to overturn. That doesn't mean we give up, it just means we work together and we persevere. One of my favorite messages came from the FIX17 conference last year, when Diane Birnbaumer encouraged us to stand on the shoulders of the giants before us, those women in medicine that had paved the way to get us here. So here I am, standing on their shoulders. At 5-foot 3-inches, I'm hardly a giant, but my shoulders are strong - strong enough to support you. So let me pull you up and let's do this.

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