At the start of the pandemic, Dr Trisha Pasricha responded to a patient hospitalized with a stomach ulcer. After spending half an hour talking to him about the need for an endoscopy and when he could expect the procedure to start, he said one thing: “Well, before you do anything. , I’ll have to discuss this with the doctor. “
“I just sort of watched it,” Dr Pasricha said. “And then the first thing that pops into my head is, ‘Well, who did you think I was’? “
Dr Pasricha was the gastroenterologist and the doctor who would perform his upper endoscopy procedure. Her encounter with this patient is just one example of what she calls “a classic experience” for women in the health field.
“When I tell this story to any female doctor, everyone knows exactly how it’s going to end before I get to the end,” Dr Pasricha said in an interview with Boston Public Radio.
The wealth of stories like these inspired Dr Pasricha to write a recent comment for Atlantic, detailing how COVID-19 has exacerbated sexism against female doctors.
“It’s not so much of an insult to be seen as one of those other team members, but just that kind of ‘Why don’t I look like a doctor to you? “” Said Dr Pasricha.
“We are facing all of these really real issues that the pandemic has exacerbated, and on top of that, we finally show up to work and we are judged on our looks – and in particular, often on our clothes,” Dr Pasricha added.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined how people react to models posing as doctors. Models who wore white coats “were seen as significantly more experienced, professional and friendly than those who wore fleece or softshell jackets.” and were “more likely to be mistaken for a medical technician, doctor or nurse”.
Dr Pasricha says the pandemic-era scrubs and PPE required for many hospital workers have fueled these sexist perceptions of female doctors.
“Most patients find it somehow inappropriate for a female doctor not to wear a white coat, which we didn’t want to wear during the pandemic as it could transmit pathogens and carry infection from a room. to the other, “said Dr Pasricha. “So we were caught in this double risk, no matter what we wear, we are seen as less professional than men who can usually manage when meeting patients as being judged purely on their knowledge and expertise, rather than on what they’re wearing.
While Dr Pasricha encountered criticism from male doctors and gastroenterologists for his article, other female doctors stepped in to share their own stories of sexism in the workplace.
“I have received emails and messages from people I don’t know, but other female doctors thank me for giving a voice to what I have been through, and often experienced in ways much worse than what I’ve been through, ”said Dr Pasricha.
“You just need to sort of recognize that there is probably some implicit bias that you carry and take the 10 steps you can take to address that that will help the female doctors in your life,” added Dr. Pasricha.
Dr Trisha Pasricha is a gastroenterologist at Mass General Hospital, a physician at Harvard Medical School, and a health contributor at the Washington Post.