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Reflections from a new chair on the new math in our profession


Our department had a terrific shindig late in June as we celebrated the kickoff of our 50th anniversary celebration in 2006 as well as a new chairperson and five new faculty members, all of whom have joined us within the past 12 months. But mainly we celebrated Dermatology in Miami, a great past, a vibrant present and an unlimited future.

As the band played some steamy Miami salsa, the dermatology department members - people ranging in age from their 20s to their 80s - filled the dance floor. As I sipped a fine fume blanc and reflected on some dramatic changes in the makeup of our department, I realized that four of the five new faculty members are women. This is some new math for the department, with seven of our 16 faculty now being women.

After my arrival in Miami at the end of the 1970s, the number of female faculty members varied from zero to two, and it had remained this way until the mid '90s. Now the number is seven. I realize that as a chair, I have a lot to learn regarding this new math. In fact, if academic dermatology is going to maximize its potential for continued excellence, most of the largely male leadership has a lot to learn. My female faculty members have most of the same old needs as the male faculty has had through the passage of the years - time, space and money - but, also, they have some distinctly different needs, and I am trying to become better informed.

I recently attended a lecture by our colleague Stephanie Pinkus, M.D., M.B.A., entitled, "From Glass Ceiling to Quicksand: Improving Success of Women in Medicine." It was incredibly helpful. One thing I learned from Dr. Pinkus, and immediately acknowledged, was a missing dimension pertaining to one of the three classic needs of "time, space, money." That is "flexibility."

Time: I have found that many of the new and potentially new female faculty members are often in a two-professional and two-M.D. marriage or significant relationship. Many have children. Their time issue is not always necessarily fighting for designated O.R. or clinic time. Rather, their greater concern is flexibility.

Women faculty will go to great lengths to contribute to the department and bolster their careers. However, requiring that this can only be done within traditional hours can place unnecessary pressures on female faculty juggling many priorities in their lives. I believe flexibility is essential in increasing female faculty recruitment and retention.

Money: Financial stability is important, and everyone wants and deserves to be treated fairly and equally. According to Dr. Pinkus' talk, there are some differences in the national averages of hours that women doctors work versus men, as well as differences in income. However, in academic dermatology, I don't feel any significant discrepancy or needs should exist.

Male versus female

There are a few differences I have learned when negotiating with potential young male versus female faculty members. These are my personal generalities and not necessarily a hard-and-fast rule. Usually, I find the women to be fairly direct in their financial requests. However, they sometimes seem more reticent to ask about additional benefits or perks that might make the position more attractive to them.

I have learned to ask, as sometimes questions about these are not volunteered. Should there be additional requests, and if I am able to meet these additional requests, we can pretty quickly seal the deal.

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