Women in Medicine Month at UF Health
September is Women in Medicine Month, a time to recognize the barrier-breaking female physicians, residents, staff and students of the past and present that are paving the way for the growing number of women in the profession.
Established by the American Medical Association (AMA), this monthlong spotlight is part of a national effort to also emphasize the ongoing challenges that women face to achieve full inclusion and equity in medicine.
At UF Health, women continue to make an enormous impact that’s felt across our entire health system as leaders, surgeons, professors, researchers, etc. We spoke to several of these women to get their thoughts on the significance of this month and advice for the next generation of role models.
Ki Park, MD, is a clinical associate professor of medicine in the University of Florida Division of Cardiovascular Medicine.
"Being a woman in medicine means so many things. To me, it signifies strength, determination and fortitude to not only advance one’s career but also juggle family, life and work. Having a tremendous amount of passion for what you do is critically important to overcome challenges and find success."
Kirsten Freeman, MD, is an assistant professor in the UF Division of Cardiovascular Surgery.
“Because of trailblazing women in the past, being a woman in medicine is no longer a rarity, but being a woman cardiac surgeon remains extremely unusual. The grueling hours coupled with the long, intensive training can be off-putting to many young medical students and residents, particularly if you do not have good mentorship. I have never had a female mentor in my field but have been fortunate to have outstanding mentors throughout my career that have been wholly supportive. Some days I operate all night, and some days I have done a heart operation during the day and gone home to coach my daughter’s tee-ball team at night! Most would say that I am proof that you can “have it all”, meaning that I have a successful, high-demanding career, a wonderful marriage to another surgeon and two amazing children. But I think “having it all” is inaccurate, because it implies that you can do all of it at once and gives unrealistic expectations for people that look up to you. I think what my life and career shows is that with hard work, dedication, planning, perseverance, support and commitment to all your endeavors, there are no limits to what you can achieve.”
Crystal N. Johnson-Mann, MD, is an assistant professor and minimally invasive/bariatric surgeon for the UF Division of Gastrointestinal Surgery within the UF College of Medicine.
“My advice to the next generation of trailblazing women in medicine is to never stop believing in yourself or what you are capable of accomplishing. Women have had a tremendous impact on the profession of medicine, and I cannot wait to see how it continues to evolve for the better.”
Kathryn Hitchcock, MD, PhD, is an assistant professor in the UF Health Department of Radiation Oncology.
"My advice to women in medicine is to be courageous, know what you’re worth and fight for your share of both responsibility and reward. You are a huge asset to both your patients and your health system!"
Danielle Elswick, CNM, APRN, works with the high-risk obstetrics team at UF Health.
“My advice for women pursuing a career in medicine is do not be deterred. You are needed. Work hard, lean in, and that no matter how many barriers present themselves, they can be overcome. Trust in yourself, and don’t give up.”
Alpa Desai, DO, currently serves as medical director at UF Health Family Medicine – Jonesville.
“For me, being a woman in medicine is about balance. Balance between work life and family life, and balance between caring of others and self-care. It’s being mindful of and maintaining that balance, which is the true challenge of being a woman in medicine.”
Jennifer Co-Vu, MD, is as the director of the Fetal Cardiac Program at the UF Health Congenital Heart Center, and the director of the Center Single Ventricle Home Monitoring Program.
“Being a woman in medicine today, I stand on the shoulders of all the pioneer women physicians before me — Elizabeth Blackwell, Margaret Chung, Virginia Apgar, Helen Taussig, and Fe del Mundo, to name a few. I want to be able to uphold their legacies by representing with excellence, compassion, courage and resilience, making every effort to break the barriers preventing the advancement of women, while fighting against injustice, race and gender inequities. In trying my very best to make this world a healthier place, and help any patient, regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status, I hope to inspire the next generation of young women who aspire to pursue a career in medicine.”
Stacy Beal, MD, is a UF clinical associate professor of pathology and the chair of the advisory board for Women in Medicine and Science (WIMS).
“(My two daughters) make me laugh. It’s certainly made my mornings and evenings a lot busier, but a lot of the skills you have as a mother and a leader are the same, like having patience when working with others, being a good listener, meeting someone where they’re at and trying to see things from their perspective.”
Read more from Dr. Beal in this post by the UF College of Medicine.