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Novello keynotes Women in Medicine conference

To those who live with glass ceilings, let's start teaching them how to throw stones!" challenged Dr. Antonia Novello, former U.S. surgeon general and the keynote speaker at Dartmouth Women in Medicine, a conference held this spring.

Women have come a long way since Elizabeth Blackwell became the first female physician in the U.S. in 1849 (and since her sister Emily was rejected by DMS, in 1852, on the basis of her gender).

But still more needs to be done before women achieve true equality with their male colleagues, Novello insisted. "We must demand that women be encouraged by schools, propelled into academic excellence by universities, recognized by their male counterparts, and appointed to positions of distinction—on their merit—equal to those of men." Novello, the first woman and first Hispanic surgeon general, is currently health commissioner of New York State.

Passion: Inspired by Novello's passionate talk, the nearly 150 attendees, mostly women, went on to participate in sessions on such topics as career strategies, leadership skills, burnout, mentoring, and personal/professional balance. Among the 25 presenters at the day-and-a-halflong conference were a career development coach, a medical historian, DMS faculty members and alumni, spouses of female physicians, and even a current DMS student.

Career development and executive coach Janet Bickel, a former executive at the Association of American Medical Colleges, counseled participants on ways to recognize and develop leadership skills and to achieve success in their careers.

But attendees were also cautioned to avoid letting their jobs be the sole focus of their lives. "It's important to realize that our roles change over time, and as they do they create different stressors in our lives," said Dr. Leslie Fall, a DMS alumna, a pediatrician at DHMC, and one of three panelists at a session on juggling multiple roles. "The way I've tried to manage that is by staying very organized and being honest about what I can and can't do," she said.

Wellness: Other presenters warned that many physicians, especially women early in their careers, are at high risk for burnout. "We must create a culture that encourages and rewards physician wellness," said Dr. Lisabeth Maloney, executive medical director at DHMC.

Nevertheless, Novello expressed confidence in the ability of DMS alumni, faculty, and students to throw stones at that glass ceiling. "I see such strength, such accumulated experience, such intelligence—that despite serious obstacles—I believe that we women will not have to worry about full and complete access and achievement in any chosen career in the 21st century."

Laura Stephenson Carter

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