Three founding members of Women in Medicine and Science explain why their mission is critical.
When the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix opened in 2007, female faculty gravitated toward one another, seeking a sense of community at the new medical school. They found this in the Women in Academic Medicine (WAM) group at the College of Medicine – Tucson, and for several years they participated in monthly WAM meetings by teleconference. Ten years later, they created a monthly happy hour and began organizing informal get-togethers in Phoenix, and a committee for a similar group at the College of Medicine – Phoenix was born.
“We developed the mission, which is to promote advancement, leadership and success for women faculty, in all roles in academic medicine and science,” said Amelia Gallitano, MD, PhD, professor of basic medical sciences and psychiatry and director of Women in Medicine and Science, or WIMS. “Almost everything we do is available to our whole community. Not just women faculty, but all genders, and not just faculty but staff, students, residents, postdocs and trainees as well.”
WIMS is the driving force behind events, sponsorships, and mentorship and training sessions that equip women to thrive in their fields and move into leadership roles. They also encourage a sense of community and even host a book club.
“You can feel like you’re siloed, so having those interpersonal relationships through WIMS has been uplifting,” said Melissa Herbst-Kralovetz, PhD, associate professor of basic medical sciences and obstetrics/gynecology. “This tight community of women faculty, both basic scientists and physicians, is coming together and creating the events we want and need.”
“In our profession, you don’t always get to where you’re at by yourself; it takes a team of mentors to get you there,” said Rayna Gonzales, PhD, associate professor of basic medical sciences (vascular biology) and director of the Gastrointestinal System, Metabolism, Diabetes and Science Nutrition block for second-year medical students. “When one reflects on the academic ladder they’ve climbed, it’s pretty impressive the amount of people who have devoted time and dedication to get you to where you’re at. WIMS definitely has a spot on my academic ladder for sure.”
Bringing current and future leaders together
WIMS’s most visible successes include networking and professional development events, which bring together members of the campus community who might not otherwise have a chance to meet.
“It’s important to learn more about my clinical colleagues as well as other colleagues on campus, and WIMS has brought women professionals on our campus together,” said Dr. Gonzales.
The group also offers workshops on salary negotiation, media training and avoiding unconscious bias.
“These offerings, in terms of things like speaking to the media, negotiating and work-life balance, are very relevant to women, but they’re relevant to everyone,” Dr. Herbst-Kralovetz said. “It just so happens that women struggle with them more than men do.”
“During a WIMS event, we invited Dean Guy Reed on stage, and a couple of us pretended like we hadn’t met him yet. We walked up to him and demonstrated what would be an effective approach to introduce yourself to a person in a leadership position,” Dr. Gonzales said. “There’s a lot of obstacles that programs like WIMS can help women overcome, and it’s a safe place for them to receive opportunities and direction.”
WIMS members say this programming can go a long way toward preparing women and other underrepresented individuals to reach the next level of their careers. Male faculty are encouraged to participate as well, both to gain awareness and to build relationships.
“We need male allies, and we greatly appreciate them. Women can’t make changes in leadership if they aren’t in the room, and they can only do so much on their own knocking at the door,” Dr. Gallitano said. “The more diverse views you have in the discussion, the better results you’re going to get. That’s a no-brainer.”
“A lot of times, we don’t like to toot our own horn,” said Dr. Herbst-Kralovetz, who directs the women’s health research program at the College of Medicine - Phoenix and also is a member of the BIO5 Institute. “It’s really amazing to be able to amplify other women’s voices.”
“Some scientists are introverts by nature— but it’s important to get exposure,” Dr. Gonzales said.
Not only do these awards gain visibility for the College of Medicine – Phoenix, they also shine a light on women in their field, inspiring others.
“Hopefully, when girls, see women in these roles they can envision themselves going into the fields of medicine and scientific research,” Dr. Gallitano said.
As WIMS has grown, it has given new female faculty and students a sense of community, as well as a place to grow as leaders and collaborate.
“It’s a fantastic group of women whose goal is to promote and nurture the up and coming, as well as to support each other,” Dr. Gonzales said. “These women provide opportunities for other women to succeed in climbing the academic ladder.”
Dr. Gallitano, who also is a member of BIO5, says she draws inspiration from the group’s positive energy, optimism and eagerness for collaboration.
“When somebody gets excited about something, they light up. Then other people get inspired and the group comes up with all kinds of amazing ideas,” Dr. Gallitano said.