Boston, MA – Two physicians who are national leaders in workforce gender equity, one from Harvard Medical School and the other from University of Nebraska Medical Center, published a new special report in the New England Journal of Medicine examining the role social media can play to help women in medicine have more opportunities for professional advancement. This report has built upon their previous research and work on gender disparities and the barriers to equal pay for equal work, promotion, recognition for their work, etc. Among the issues female physicians have traditionally faced is a lack of opportunities for publications, professional presentations, awards and recognitions. They have also faced discrimination with issues related to maternity leave, and they are not immune from sexual harassment and assault (#MeTooMedicine). This report contends that the large public platforms that social media can provide may help overcome or mitigate these barriers by providing female physicians new pathways to sharing their work.
Sasha K. Shillcutt, MD, MS, FASE, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Department of Anesthesiology and Julie K. Silver, MD, Harvard Medical School, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation were the authors of the report. Dr. Silver says, “My research with colleagues has shown that women’s voices are silenced, and they are not recognized for their important work. Social media provides new avenues to overcome barriers and amplify their voices and work.” Dr. Silver is an Associate Professor and Associate Chair in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School and the Associate Chair for Strategic Initiatives for the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network. She is also on the medical staff at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The past year marked several important milestones related to the issue of gender disparities in medicine. Women are now the majority of medical school students, with studies showing this population has an over 94% usage with social media platforms. The near instantaneous synchronous communications social media provides allows for a level of information sharing and engagement never before seen in medicine. The authors strongly encourage medical schools to incorporate social media training as part of their education for students so they can use it effectively and ethically as a communication tool to engage peers, policy makers and educate the public. The visibility social media provides will also level the access to opportunities to share their knowledge, encourage adoption of new research into clinical practice and advocate for social justice on issue related to healthcare. Especially for early career women physicians or those from other underrepresented groups, social media platforms could help create new paradigms for professional advancement in medicine.
While the report acknowledges there are negatives to increased use of social media, the new opportunities especially for groups that have been traditionally underrepresented such as female physicians is significant. In addition to the visibility the opportunity for networking, and creating professional support groups within social media is another added positive. Ultimately the study finds that social media can be a powerful tool to overcoming the litany of challenges to achieve true gender quality in medicine.
About the Spaulding Rehabilitation Network
A member of Partners HealthCare, The Spaulding Rehabilitation Network includes Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, its main campus in Charlestown as well as Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Cape Cod, Spaulding Hospital Cambridge and the Spaulding Brighton Skilled Nursing Facility, as well as twenty-five outpatient sites throughout Eastern Massachusetts. Spaulding has been awarded a Model Systems designation in three specialty areas- Brain Injury, Burn Injury Rehabilitation, and Spinal Cord Injury - by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research. Spaulding is a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School as well as the official rehabilitation hospital of the New England Revolution. Spaulding is the only rehabilitation hospital in New England continually ranked since 1995 by U.S. News and World Report in its Best Hospitals survey, ranking #4 ranking in 2017/18. For more information, please visit www.spauldingrehab.org.
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