By Tina Rizack, MD, MPH, FNCBC
I need a plumber. I need a real estate attorney. I need a lawyer to review my new contract. Any primary care physicians taking new patients? I have a train table to give away. Anyone with experience with a dyslexic child? My neighbor’s former nanny is moving back to Providence and looking for work. My son’s teacher needs to borrow a model brain. These are some of the posts I have put on the MomDocFamily (MDF) listserv at Brown University over the years.
Today, women make up more than half of medical school classes, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges’ 2017 report. MDF was created by two physician-mothers in 2003 and now has over 400 members who are either physicians or physicians in training. It is a unique organization devoted to the role of a physician mother. Membership is open to any physician or medical student. To quote the MDF website, they are a group of female physicians with the goal of providing mentorship and support for women physicians facing the challenges and rewards of combining a medical career with motherhood. It is a multidisciplinary group of women doctors representing all stages of careers and medical training. They are committed to supporting one another's efforts to attain professional success and personal satisfaction. Included in their mission is the dedication to learn from each other's experiences by openly discussing career and parenting strategies. I joined MDF when I was pregnant with my first child over 12 years ago and am pleased to now be serving on the advisory board.
My husband refers to the MDF listserv as “the oracle.” It is an invaluable resource, from my patient and professional needs to my personal ones. MDF fosters a connection between the physicians it serves. We trust each other’s recommendations. We pass on our coveted nannies and offer opinions about daycares, preschools, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, tutors, etc. We often refer our patients and ourselves to one another. We help each other out when our loved ones need medical care or medical advice.
MDF’s leadership also advocates for workplace changes by initiating systems-based change. For example, Dr. Lynn Taylor, one of MDF’s founders and co-directors, has worked tirelessly to ensure that there is a lactation space available at each of the training hospitals used by the Alpert Medical School. In conjunction with The Rhode Island Breastfeeding Coalition and Rhode Island hospitals, MDF developed a list of lactation accommodations available to physicians and other employees of hospitals/medical settings located throughout Rhode Island.
We recognize each other’s names from the listserv and more easily spark conversations when we come across one another. We are able to showcase what we are working on academically and socially, fostering awareness and involvement in our community. On the evening I wrote this blog post, I ran into a fellow mom doc excited to be involved with other mom docs present and past (such as Dr. Esther Choo) together with female health providers around the country in launching Times Up Health Care on March 1, 2019. I like to think that MDF played a part in this venture.
While MDF fills a unique gap in the support system of this busy population at my institution, forming a community of female physicians is an incredible support network that can easily be created at most institutions starting with just a handful of female physicians and physicians in training. We have so much to offer each other professionally and personally as physicians and mothers. Whether it is one person, a group of people, or a listserv, having a support system to lean on has become vital resource for me as a woman in oncology.
Dr. Rizack is a hematologist and oncologist practicing at St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, Massachusetts. She is a clinical associate professor of medicine and obstetrics and gynecology at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She specializes in the care of women’s cancers and hematologic and oncologic issues in pregnancy. She is married to a commercial pilot and recently retired air national guard pilot. She is the mother of two active boys.