Despite our progressive society, gender biases continue to exist. For instance, when you think of certain professions with a long-standing history of gender stereotypes, most of us instinctively conjure up either an image of a man or a woman. One such profession is medicine.
In 1847, Elizabeth Blackwell entered medical school and became the first woman in history to receive a medical degree in the United States. Thankfully, medicine has come along way since then. Nowadays, most medical school classes consist of a balance of men and women, however, certain specialities continue to be over-represented by one gender over the other.
I started medical school in 1994 and completed my family medicine residency in 2000. On several occasions during my training, despite my attire and a name tag indicating otherwise, patients assumed that I was someone other than a doctor.
I never took offense to such situations. Instead, I took pride in telling patients that I was a doctor-in-training. I truly believe that we have to be proud of whatever profession we represent.
As a society, we need to replace the concepts of stereotypes and biases with diversity and equality. An exciting movement in medicine currently trending on Twitter is the hashtag “#ILookLikeASurgeon”. This community building campaign has garnered interest from the medical community, various organizations and the general public.
I love the message and humanity behind it. Just look it up on Twitter and you will find a picture of a person, maybe in scrubs, maybe not. Different ages, genders, races, stages of career, etc., are represented. It is a unifying message celebrating diversity, community, and professionalism – all through utilizing the power of Twitter.
Two fellow physicians and surgeons on Twitter, Dr. Heather Logghe (Allies for Health) who sparked the popular hashtag and Dr. Kathy Hughes (Behind the Mask), have been promoting and inspiring this important project. Its impact has been so impressive that it will soon have its own website, ILookLikeASurgeon .
eProfessionalism & a Hashtag
When I think of professionalism, I think of community, connectivity, conduct, communication, and advocacy. Add an “e” and we are talking about online professionalism, something I am very interested in and passionate about.
We often hear of the cautionary tales of mixing medicine and social media, but through professional conduct and guidelines, it can be accomplished effectively. Social media allows us to consider new ways of looking at medical professionalism. As Tara Fenwick says, “New social media are continually appearing, often in response to what users do, with profound effects on both social norms and the meaning of professionalism.”1
When you examine #ILookLikeASurgeon and the far-reaching impact it has made, you can appreciate the positive influence social media can have on professionalism. This campaign was fueled by #ILookLikeAnEngineer, celebrating the core principles of diversity, combating stereotypes and promoting professionalism.
In the end, social media can be used in many positive ways – to form connections with colleagues we might not otherwise meet; inspire our younger generation to overlook pervasive notions to pursue their dreams; celebrate diversity and equality in one another; and rekindle our purpose, passion and collegiality for what we do.
1. Fenwick, T. (2014). Social Media and Medical Professionalism: Rethinking the Debate and the Way Forward. Academic Medicine. 89(1); 1331-34.