A Closer Look at the Women’s Leadership in Medicine in the Dominican Republic

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Darleny Canario Zapata, a sixth-year medical student at Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD) and Ms. Ana Cristina Abreu Guaba, a fourth-year medical student at the Iberoamerican University (UNIBE) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. They are affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Currently, women who are minority faculty and trainees in academic medicine continue to face challenges when pursuing higher-level clinical and administrative positions.(1) This discrepancy has been observed as the proportion of female medical students first exceeded 50% in 2003, and the proportions of female associate and full professors today are 37% and 25%, respectively.(1) This reality highlights the need for a call to action to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion to enhance women’s success in medical leadership. This article aims to provide support and encourage women to continue to pursue leadership roles, engage with colleagues, and advocate for a more culturally appropriate setting for women in academic medicine.

Leadership training has been proposed as a means of managing these changes and ensuring that clinicians can navigate their changing roles as healthcare providers. It is therefore vital to establish clearer definitions of leadership in the context of healthcare and articulate which competencies define physician leadership. (2) Research studies have suggested that women are less likely to put themselves forward, perhaps lacking the self-belief exhibited by their male counterparts. (3) Hence, how can we structure opportunities for women to make their scholarly careers maximally productive while also meeting their personal goals? (4)

Countries in Latin America have reported that there are more women entering the workforce, yet the gender gaps remain. (5) To close the gender gap within the health field, we propose that coordinated academic training and supportive public policies should encourage women to pursue clinical and surgical specialties. First, by providing women with access to direct departments within health centers, where the same number of men and women are recruited, then teamwork and equity can be prioritized. Second, seminars and training can promote the availability of ​​management and public health jobs, which can mark horizontal leadership among women with diverse disciplines. Ultimately, this can strengthen self-identity and lead to workplace changes – even amidst crises – as well as foster acquisition of essential knowledge and skills to close gaps. Finally, female role models can provide additional inspiration for women, while eliminating prejudices and competition and fostering collaborations. Promoting female leadership can enhance innovation and collaboration in clinical and public health practice.

Through the implementation of novel practices, this paradigm shift will support the Sustainable Development Goals 4 (Quality Education) and 5 (Gender Equality) as a framework for women pursuing STEM fields – which includes women in the health sciences. This can foster a positive transformation in the services provided so that it transcends the national health system and health entities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

References

1) Brown NJ. Promoting the success of women and minority physician-scientists in academic medicine: a dean’s perspective. J Clin Invest. 2020 Dec;130(12):6201-6203.  

2)  Kumar B, Swee ML, Suneja M. Leadership training programs in graduate medical education: a systematic review. BMC Med Educ. 2020 Jun;20(175):1,9.

3) Voyland J, Dacre J, Gordon H. Addressing women’s under-representation in medical leadership. Lancet. 2019 Feb;393:1.

4)Rochon PA, Davidoff F, Levinson, W. Women in academic medicine leadership: has anything changed in 25 years? Acad Med. 2016 Aug;91(8):3.

5) UN News. More women in Latin America are working, but gender gap persists, new UN figures show. 2019 Oct. Available from: https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/10/1050121

Acknowledgments: The authors wish to thank Dr. Helena Chapman for her mentorship during the manuscript preparation. We acknowledge the support of IFMSA-Dominican Republic to develop medical education workshops that strengthen skills-based learning.

About the authors

Darleny Canario Zapata is a sixth-year medical student at Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (UASD), Dominican Republic. She enjoys volunteering in medical operations, including Operation Smile. Since she was a child, she has dreams of becoming a pediatrician and a writer. In 2011-2012, she prepared two book manuscripts that are unpublished. She is an active member of the Standing Committee on Public Health (SCOPH) of ODEM-Dominican Republic.

Ana Cristina Abreu Guaba is a fourth-year medical student at the Iberoamerican University (UNIBE) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. She is an active member of the Standing Committee on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights including HIV and AIDS (SCORA) of ODEM-Dominican Republic. Since she was a child, she has enjoyed volleyball and swimming. She is a current member of the UNIBE chess team.  She describes herself as a friendly, responsible, tenacious, and optimistic person. 

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