“Knocking Down Barriers” Panel Discussion Celebrates Women Leaders at NYMC
Panelists discussed the various challenges that women in healthcare and leadership positions face.
An incredible group of women leaders took part in the “Knocking Down Barriers: Women in Healthcare and Academic Leadership” panel discussion at New York Medical College (NYMC) on March 23, where leaders from both NYMC and WMCHealth shared their experiences as women in medicine, academia and leadership roles. The event featured three panels and 14 panelists who touched upon both personal and professional obstacles that each faced and shared lessons and advice from their own experiences.
The first panel, “Changing the Tone through Leadership,” was moderated by Tracey A. Milligan, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Neurology and director of neurology at WMCHealth. The panel focused on the principles that influence decision making while in leadership roles. “Not only do you need to have a vision for where you want to go, but you need to be able to listen and to hear people,” said Lori Solomon, M.D. ’99, M.P.H. ’09, clinical associate professor and chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine and director of the Family Health Center. “A guiding principle for me is inclusion and making sure that multiple people’s perspectives are seen, heard and respected.”
Marina K. Holz, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Basic Medical Sciences (GSBMS), professor of cell biology and anatomy, introduced the second panel, “Making a Difference,” which featured discussion on what women in leadership positions can do to help women have a seat at the table, whether through research or practicing medicine. The panel also discussed how women face unique challenges when deciding to pursue an advanced medical degree. “I think that recognizing the special challenges that young women have to go through especially when starting a family and accommodating them is so important,” said Tetyana Cheairs M.D., M.S.P.H., assistant dean for Ph.D. programs and assistant professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology. “Often [women] are forced to choose between career and family.”
The final panel, “Empowering Your Key Strengths,” was moderated by Mary E. Leahy, M.D., M.H.A., chief executive officer of Bon Secours Charity Health System. The panel covered the disparity between the amount of women health care professionals and the number of women in leadership positions and the challenges that women can face while moving up the ranks. Sherlita Amler, M.D., M.S., FAAP, clinical associate professor of pediatrics, adjunct professor of epidemiology and community health and commissioner of health for Westchester County, shared about her experience with her first few jobs as a public health investigator and sanitarian in Arkansas where, as the only woman at her job, she was harassed. Dr. Amler, despite the way she was treated, persevered. “I thought, ‘You are not getting rid of me. I do not care what you do,’” she said. Dr. Amler adopted that same mindset when she applied to medical school at age 36. “If it is your dream, you cannot let other people decide how you live your life.”
[Women] have always had a significant impact [on the world] and have often been overlooked but we want to make sure we take time to celebrate all that today,” said Mill Etienne, M.D. '02, M.P.H., FAAN, FAES, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, associate dean of student affairs and associate professor of neurology and of medicine, who helped facilitate the event.
The event also included the unveiling of two new posters that will be displayed on campus featuring prominent NYMC historical women: Lois C. Lillick, Ph.D., M.D. ’53, M.P.H., (1913-1976) who chaired the Department of Microbiology from 1946 to 1962, and holds the unique distinction of being the only physician ever to receive an M.D. from NYMC while chairing one of its basic science departments and the first female chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine, Sophie Rabinoff, M.D., (1889 – 1957), who became chair in 1951 of what was then known as the Department of Public Health and Industrial Medicine, now the Department of Family and Community Medicine.