February 3rd is National Women Physicians Day, highlighting the significant contributions of female doctors and their remarkable impact on healthcare. Women physicians face unique challenges while balancing multiple roles and providing exceptional care.
This occasion inspires future medical professionals and recognizes the trailblazing efforts of women in medicine. Their influence extends beyond hospital corridors and significantly impacts the world. Read on to learn more.
Featured in: February - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.
History and Background of National Women Physicians Day
National Women's Physicians Day began recently in 2016. February 3 was chosen as it is the birth anniversary of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to earn a medical degree from a US medical school in 1849. She had overcome gender bias to become a doctor, including receiving rejection letters from medical schools commenting on her alleged intellectual inferiority.
Dr. Hala Sabry spearheaded this annual celebration, which honors women who have significantly contributed to medicine. Since the holiday’s inception, the medical field has undergone significant changes.
In 2017, the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA) supported the initiative, which boosted its credibility. That same year, more than half of the students in American medical schools were women.
As a result, by 2019, over a third of physicians in the U.S. were women, demonstrating their perseverance and resolve. This occasion celebrates the leadership and influence of women in medicine. It recognizes the women who have taken up leadership roles in medical schools, research institutions, and medical discovery.
The Cause and Its Challenges
National Women Physicians Day celebrates women's contributions to medicine and also highlights the ongoing challenges for gender equality.
The gender pay gap still plagues the medical profession, with male doctors earning 26% more than their female counterparts, according to recent numbers from the 2023 Physician Compensation Report. This disparity shows the gender bias that can impact women's career advancement and job satisfaction.
Moreover, women often have to juggle patient care and personal life in work environments that may not cater to their unique needs, which can lead to a higher burnout rate among women physicians. We must acknowledge that their well-being directly impacts the quality of healthcare they provide.
Why National Women Physicians Day Matters
Statistics show that in 2021, only 37.1% of physicians in America were women, and there is a significant wage disparity between male and female physicians. Despite these challenges, women in medicine have positively impacted patient care.
For example, studies indicate that female physicians spend more time with their patients and adhere to clinical guidelines more strictly1, resulting in lower mortality and readmission rates. More women in medicine can provide diverse perspectives and contribute to gender equality and better care.
Likewise, encouraging more women to pursue medical careers requires practical measures such as mentoring programs, scholarships, and policies that support work-life balance.
Efforts and Initiatives
The American Medical Women's Association (AMWA) leads the charge, providing a platform for events that engage, motivate, and educate women in the medical field.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is also raising awareness about the crucial role of women in global health and the persistent gender gap in the healthcare industry.
Their published data is a blueprint for policymakers to champion equal opportunities for women in emergency medicine and healthcare.
In Canada, the Federation of Medical Women of Canada (FMWC) is creating a space where female physicians can speak, learn, and lead. This initiative provides resources and support for women in medicine and promotes unity in sparking meaningful change.
How to Get Involved and Support National Women Physicians Day
- One way to support the cause is to educate oneself on the issues women doctors face, such as the gender pay gap and work-life balance.
- Another way to make a difference is to share information on social media. Call out unfair treatment and discrimination to raise awareness.
- Use the hashtag #NWPD to connect with others worldwide and raise awareness about the contributions of women in medicine.
- Moreover, you can donate money to or volunteer at organizations that support women in medicine. Or, you can organize a charity event to raise awareness and funds for these organizations.
- Finally, if you know a female physician, thank them. And, if you see a girl who wants to be a doctor, encourage them to pursue their dreams.
National Women Physicians Day reminds us of the significant contributions made by women physicians to public health and their unrelenting pursuit of excellence in the face of gender stereotypes and bias.
However, women physicians face wage gaps and underrepresentation in leadership positions. These issues are not just statistics but real-life obstacles that female physicians encounter.
Let us strive to make recognition and advocacy for women physicians an everyday effort. We must continue championing their cause until fairness and equal opportunities are commonplace in healthcare.
National Women Physicians Day: FAQs
It is an event to celebrate and recognize the contributions of women in the field of medicine.
It occurs on February 3 in honor of the first woman with a medical degree from a US medical school, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell.
This day highlights their achievements, promotes gender equality in medicine, and inspires young girls to pursue careers in healthcare.
You can spread awareness through social media, attend local events or webinars, support women-led medical organizations, and honor women physicians in your community.
Women physicians face gender bias, pay disparities, work-life balance issues, and underrepresentation in leadership positions.
Tsugawa, Y., Jena, A. B., Figueroa, J. F., Orav, E. J., Blumenthal, D. M., & Jha, A. K. (2017). Comparison of Hospital Mortality and Readmission Rates for Medicare Patients Treated by Male vs Female Physicians. JAMA Internal Medicine, 177(2), 206.