The Recent Evolution of Women in Medicine

In honor of International Women’s Day (March 8) and National Doctor’s Day (March 30), Methodist celebrates women in medicine.

by Rochelle McKown, MD, FACOG, associate program director OBGYN
Methodist Dallas Medical Center

In 1970, less than 10 percent of medical students were women. In 1972, Title IX of the Educational Amendments passed prohibiting discrimination based on sex in educational programs that receive federal financial assistance, thus opening the door to more opportunities for women. When I matriculated in 1979, the number of women entering medical school had more than doubled to 1 in 5.

My residency program was entirely Caucasian, and I was the third woman in a program of 24 residents specializing in obstetrics and gynecology (OBGYN). What a transition we have witnessed!

In 2017, for the first time, women entering medical school outnumbered men (50.7 percent). In our OBGYN residency here at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, 11 of the 12 are women, we are ethnically diverse, and we are a team.

Working as a faculty member in Graduate Medical Education has been another opportunity to step into a place less commonly occupied by women. Although about 59 percent of OBGYN doctors practicing are currently women, the percentage with leadership roles and faculty positions is closer to 35 percent.

I enjoyed many years of direct patient care while in private practice, but the non-medical demands can be too much. What a coup to have made it to a point in my career where I work with some of the smartest, most motivated, and diligent young people around! I get to share my experience while staying motivated by lifelong learning. In addition, newer methods of skills learning have made it into residency training with simulations that require some creativity to be thrown into the mix.

Today, 87 percent of OBGYN residents in the U.S are female -- and I am just thrilled to be part of the progression!