When asked about her decision to open a private practice, Hiral Lavania, MD, FAAP, IBCLC of One Family Pediatrics in Cumming, GA had this to say: ”I got to a point in my career where I felt I was out of room for growth and wanted to do more. After doing a lot of research, I decided to take the leap and open an independent pediatric practice—and I absolutely love it.”
Kendall Connick, NP, who opened Sprout Pediatrics with three other women in Metairie, LA in July of 2020 expressed the same desire to break free of the constraints of health-system medicine and join a strong team of like-minded women. “The fact that we are exclusively female-owned is actually a strong selling point to our patients. Due to our long-time residence in the area, we know everyone, and everyone knows us. We have really never encountered a negative gender bias experience. Our community fully supports us and celebrates our accomplishments as women, which is a huge plus.”
When asked why they chose to specialize in pediatrics, Skinner, Lavania, and Connick all cited a preference for working with children over adults, especially in the impact that can be made in forming healthy lifelong habits at an early age rather than trying to break bad habits in adults.
Despite the clear trend in the gender of practicing physicians and the predominance of women in pediatrics, there is no subgroup within the AAP specifically for female practitioners—an oversight Skinner seeks to remedy with the founding of Women in Pediatrics. “Simply put, the challenges and needs of female physicians, as well as owners of private practices, are just different than those of males,” explains Skinner. “And there was no group that sought to specifically support those challenges and needs.”
According to Skinner, “Members of our organization feel like they are practicing in a silo, which can be very isolating.” Often, these feelings of seclusion are linked to being the only woman at a practice, or even because of isolated practice locations. “For many independent female physicians, you have reached a point in your career where you are different from other professional women. There are very few people who can understand and empathize with the challenges you face, and you might be intimidated to seek out other mentorship,” said Skinner. “One of the goals of Women in Pediatrics is to break down those silos and provide the opportunities for mentorship so many female pediatricians crave.”
Dr. Lavania echoed the sentiments expressed by Skinner regarding some of the challenges she has faced as a female practice owner-operator. Despite the advancements made by women in the workplace, the fact is that women are overwhelmingly expected to juggle the burdens of work life and home life– to “do it all.” Men are often not subject to the same pressures as women when it comes to the home and childcare, even when the female in the marriage or partnership has a high-pressure job. Unfortunately, the cultural expectations on female professionals may be contributing to an even greater crisis, that is the higher burnout rates for female physicians in contrast to those of their male counterparts. A 2019 review of the literature published by the National Academy of Medicine found that the increased burnout rates for female doctors may be attributed to factors such as the pressures of a dual-career home, the gender wage-gap, reduced chances of promotions to leadership positions, lack of role models, higher rates of gender bias, and even increased chance of sexual harassment in the workplace.