This Date in UCSF History: Women in Medicine Gather

Monday, February 28, 2022

Originally published March 3, 1988. For the past six years the Women’s Medical Student Association, WMSA, with the help of the Women’s Faculty Association, has hosted a springtime retreat for women faculty members, residents and medical students.

The retreat, which usually runs one and one-half days, is organized to provide a time for women faculty and medical students to gather and to share their experiences in medicine.

This “sharing” takes place informally during mealtimes and walks on the beach, and more formally in organized lectures and workshops given by the faculty.

In the recent past, three main issues have dominated the retreats.

The first of these has simply been sharing the experience of being a woman in medicine. Many women medical students are frustrated by attempting to figure out how to balance professional and nonprofessional lives, especially when children enter the picture.

Through hearing the stories of women already well into their medical careers and being exposed to their various lifestyles, students begin to see how other women have juggled their lives and that they themselves will find a way too. Lesley Klumpp, a second-year medical student, commented that after the retreat last year “students felt like everything was possible.”

Her classmate Jennifer Hastings also enjoyed the “unique opportunity to be with older women who have been through it,” but felt disappointed that “many faculty expressed the idea that ‘we survived and therefore you can survive.’” Hastings found herself more interested in hearing about change.

The second issue addressed has been the roles female clinicians and academicians play in the medical profession. Last year Adele Clarke of the School of Nursing gave a lecture entitled “Historical Perspectives of Women in Medicine.” The role of women in medicine was also the subject of a panel discussion entitled “How Do We Change Medicine: How Does Medicine Change Us,” and a number of smaller workshops.

These days, with the first-year medical class consisting of almost 50 percent women, it may seem that a retreat of this sort is becoming outdated. This is not the case.

Although it is true that more women are entering medicine there is still a lack of female role models, both academic and clinical, in almost every area of medicine.

This is especially obvious by the absence of women in many of the more powerful job categories in medicine, such as departmental heads.

Due to this continuing imbalance in medicine, it remains necessary for women to put effort into seeking each other out in order to get to know one another and to share each other’s insight and knowledge.

The WMSA Retreat provides a perfect opportunity for women to accomplish these things.