Academic and professional institutions are encouraging more women to assume leadership roles. Audrey B. Uknis, MD, professor of medicine and senior associate dean for admissions and strategy at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, finds that women “have many opportunities in academic careers including advancement in the areas of patient care, research, education, and administration.” As women take advantage of their choices, they are able to build careers that meet both professional and personal goals. The strides women are making in the academic setting, Dr. Uknis says, is setting precedent for both women and men colleagues who are seeking a work–life balance. “Women are, therefore, trailblazers,” she says.
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Explore This IssueOctober 2012
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Dr. Kahlenberg states that the University of Michigan “is in the process of lengthening the tenure clock to 10 years from 8 years to provide more flexibility.” Other institutions are considering more flexible tenure tracks, which again benefit both men and women.
Funding sources are also responding to work–life issues for women. Leslie J. Crofford, MD, Gloria W. Singletary professor of internal medicine and chief of the division of rheumatology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, explains that “the National Institutes of Health allows a personal statement describing experience or qualifications that show suitability for the project that is the subject of the application. The applicant also can describe factors such as family care, illness, disability, and active military duty that may have affected scientific advancement or productivity.” The National Science Foundation also permits applicants to balance responsibilities in the lab and at home. “Funding agencies are getting it,” Dr. Crofford says.
What else can be done to help women achieve parity and to ensure that needs are met for the future—for both genders and for the field of rheumatology?
The ACR has already started working to foster parity and offer support. Alexis Ogdie Beatty, MD, instructor of medicine in the division of rheumatology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, recommends the session on work–life balance at the ACR’s annual Rheumatology Research Workshop for young investigators. The session reviews parenting and mentoring guidelines for mothers and others interested in work–life balance. Dr. Kahlenberg appreciates these efforts to “keep disparities out in the open and on the radar.”
The demographic makeup of the fellows currently in training and that of the future workforce already predicts a shortage of rheumatologists. This is partially because those retiring are being replaced by those who may take time out to start and care for families or may work part time as they balance home and work responsibilities. Thus, replacing one retiring rheumatologist with another may not be an even exchange of clinician and time resources. That is why it is imperative that the ACR continue to focus on its goal of recruiting more and more medical students and residents to consider rheumatology as a specialty.