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Panel explores support for women in health care

Image with caption: Panelists for last week's

Panelists for last week's "Give Her a Reason to Stay in Healthcare" event.

Howard Liu, MD, chair of psychiatry, knew the question would be on everyone’s mind. Why were two men -- Dr. Liu, and UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD -- opening a panel discussion on women in health care?

"It is by design," Dr. Liu said. "Our goal is to underscore the role of male allies to effect change."

The Sept. 14 virtual discussion, "A Panel on Institutional Support for Retention of Women in the Pandemic," was part of UNMC’s ongoing effort in a national campaign, Give Her a Reason to Stay in Healthcare.

That endeavor, part of Women in Medicine Month, is a gender equity campaign from the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA). Give Her a Reason addresses inequities in medicine generally - but, also especially since the ongoing pandemic "has contributed to an unprecedented exodus of women from the medical workforce."

Watch a recording of the panel discussion, jointly sponsored by UNMC and Nebraska Medicine, here.

Read this resource guide prepared by UNMC’s Give Her a Reason to Stay in Healthcare team.

While Drs. Gold and Liu kicked off the panel, female voices soon took center stage:

  • Allison Grennan, PhD, co-president of WE STRIVE, noted that not everyone can attend 6 p.m. meetings. In fact, she was home with a sick child during this very meeting!
  • Sasha Shillcutt, MD, vice chair of anesthesiology, talked about the "third shift" many women face. She advised leaders to be mindful of cries for help: "If one woman is coming to you (with concerns), there’s 10 that aren’t."
  • Shirley Delair, MD, associate dean for DEI at the College of Medicine, said it is her role to ask what barriers and challenges women face, and suggested a childcare working group, among other parent-friendly initiatives.
  • Brandy Clarke, PhD, UNMC director of equity, co-chair of the planning committee, said, "Many excellent ideas have been proposed for things that we can do and the time to act is now."

The panel also featured male allies:

  • Dele Davies, MD, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, listed the five questions he asks every leader about gender equity.
  • Dr. Liu noted the four traits of allyship he has learned from women leaders: be perceptive, allyship must be public, nominate women proactively, and be persistent.
  • Keith Allen, PhD, director of academic affairs at MMI, said he was good about flexibility when he was a working parent himself, but with his children now grown, "I forgot." Listening, "has been a powerfully eye-opening experience for this ally," he said, "and frankly, a little bit humbling." He said he was informed he’d scheduled his first listening session for school drop-off hour!
  • Dr. Gold said the effort has the full backing of the medical center. "We must redouble our efforts to listen," he said. "Not just to hear, but to listen. Sometimes, that’s hard to do."

But, the chancellor said, "We don’t shy away from big ideas. And this would be a wonderful big idea to sink our teeth into."

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