Michigan Medicine celebrates National Women Physicians Day

February 3, 2023  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,
Top, L-R: Schon, Muraszko, Newman, Dossett, Umemura.
Bottom, L-R: Marsh, Elam, Mody, Bidwell

Approximately a 4-minute read

Key takeaways:

  • It’s National Women Physicians Day, giving the organization a chance to recognize the contributions of women physicians across the country.
  • The date honors Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D., the first woman in the U.S. to receive a medical degree.
  • Several women physicians, and one medical student, recently reflected on the importance of mentorship during their careers.

Feb. 3 marks National Women Physicians Day, a time to honor and recognize the accomplishments and contributions of women physicians across the country.  

This date was chosen to commemorate Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D., who was the first woman in the United States to receive a medical degree. Not only was Blackwell a physician who specialized in gynecology, she was also a steadfast advocate for equality and a mentor to many other women in the field of medicine.

In honor of Blackwell and this special day, several women physicians (and one physician-in-training) recently discussed how mentorship has been transformative in their careers.

Here’s what they had to say:

Serena Bidwell, third-year medical student:  

“The incredible mentorship I’ve received as a medical student – including research, clinical and professional mentors – has helped me tremendously. It has opened new opportunities in global surgery projects and medical education outreach work and has allowed me to see myself entering leadership roles I never thought were possible. Lastly, mentorship has provided me with a network of unwavering support that I know will last well into my career as a physician.”

Lesly Dossett, M.D., M.P.H., division chief of surgical oncology:

“For me, mentoring young women in surgery is the most rewarding part of academic medicine. Outside of patient care, there is just no greater joy than seeing a young mentee take those first baby steps and before you know it, they are flying on their own.”

Angela Elam, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences:

“Black women make up just 2% of all physicians. What an honor and great privilege it is to be a part of that phenomenal group of women! To be mentored by and serve as a mentor to other Black women physicians is one of the highlights of my career.”

Erica Marsh M.D., MSCI, FACOG, chief of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the Center for Reproductive Medicine:

“One of the greatest joys of being in academic medicine is the opportunity to intentionally invest in others. Seeing the arc of their career change with an idea, a concept, an abstract submission, a podium presentation, a manuscript, a grant or otherwise is so incredible. I am so grateful every single day to come to work and be a part of that moment, that magic, and to have others continue to do the same for me.”

Lona Mody, M.D., M.Sc., interim division chief of geriatric and palliative care medicine:

“I love longitudinal mentoring. To see a mentee feel joy in advancing science, be persistent in the face of rejection and fearless in their pursuit of innovation has been my greatest privilege. I see how rare that is and therefore am their ardent cheerleader. My mentors have done the same for me – gave me courage, as well as the skills to pursue big goals, and that is the reason I am here today.”

Karin Muraszko, M.D., professor of neurological surgery, pediatrics and plastic surgery and the first woman to chair an academic neurosurgery department in the U.S.:

“In being a mentor, I discovered important lessons in leadership. To encourage, but also, to honestly evaluate. To critique, but still support. To strategize, while continuing to recognize unexpected opportunity. And to speak plainly, while still inspiring. These are all a part of mentoring, but also, a part of leading on a much larger scale. I am constantly amazed at the ripple effect of our words and actions. I draw comfort in the fact that our efforts within mentorship often have benefits that go well beyond mentored to include the mentored.”

Erika Newman, M.D., section head of pediatric surgery and surgical director of the Solid Tumor Oncology Program:

“I have had the amazing opportunity to learn and grow from outstanding leaders, as well as leadership opportunities in unique ways that have helped shape and strengthen my journey. I believe that the unprecedented challenges that we are traversing will leave us with renewed strength to forge ahead together in what matters most. And I am now eager and ready to bring all of my experiences and lessons learned to accelerate the next generation of women learners and leaders.”

Samantha Schon, M.D., reproductive endocrinologist and assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology:

“As a clinician, I have had a number of truly wonderful mentors who, through their compassion, empathy and kindness, have led me to strive to emulate them daily; they are true examples of the highest ideals of medicine. My mentors have helped shape and elevate my career, as well as foster my passions and help me reach goals that once seemed unobtainable. I am truly grateful for their presence in my life.” 

Yoshie Umemura, M.D., M.Sc., division chief of neuro-oncology:

“When I first met Karin Muraszko, M.D., I wondered about the barriers she must’ve overcome in her professional career to become the first woman to chair an academic neurosurgery department in the U.S. She called me after the interview and told me to think about what I want to be doing in five years and to make sure it was something that excites me – so exciting that it may keep me up at night. I’m happy to report that I am following her advice and doing just that. I now pass these pearls on to my mentees and I hope they will find them as useful as I did, blazing their own paths and following their passions.”