In honor of National Women Physicians Day, Adfinitas Health is excited to celebrate the many important contributions of its women physicians, including its first female partner, Ivelisse (Ivy) Michel, M.D.
In a message to staff today, Dr. Doug Mitchell, Co-Founder of Adfinitas Health, says: “Today we celebrate National Women Physicians Day, held annually on February 3rd in honor of the first U.S. female MD, Elizabeth Blackwell.” Dr. Mitchell goes on to say, “We would like to recognize and celebrate all of our talented female physicians across the company. We value the contributions they make every day, delivering high quality, patient-centered care in our many partner hospitals and post-acute facilities. We hope that this day helps to inspire future generations of female physicians.”
To mark the day, Dr. Michel took time out of her leadership responsibilities and caring for patients to answer a few questions about the role of women physicians.
Q & A with Dr. Ivy Michel
What does it mean to be a woman physician today?
Being a woman physician today means having the ability to care for my family and for other people’s families. It allows me to advocate for my family’s health, to bring healing to my patients, and to be a resource for other women.
Since you started your career, what changes have you seen in the workplace for women physicians?
I have started to see instances where men are advocating for women in many areas - from equal pay to job promotions. I think there is more recognition in the value of diversity. I have been in search committees comprised entirely of men except me, where the value of bringing in a female to fill the role has been specifically discussed, with an acknowledgement that ‘we need to diversify the voices in the conversation.’
It may be that these situations are starting to hit close to home as many families include both spouses working outside the home. This affects wives, mothers, and sisters. Many of my senior patients grew up with male physicians only so I am often asked, ‘Are you my nurse?’ Many times a male colleague will interject for me with: ‘This is your doctor and she is a great one at that!’ or ‘She’s the boss!’ While this makes me feel great and progress has been made, there is still a long way to go for women in medicine.
What are some of the barriers you’ve overcome or unique challenges you've faced as a woman physician?
I think the biggest obstacle I and many other women in medicine face, is the unconscious bias against women. As a group, we are often underestimated, especially in our capacity to lead. Being a female physician in a leadership role can be very isolating. I often find myself being the only female at a board meeting or in an executive meeting. Learning to communicate effectively in those settings and finding the confidence to do so has been a challenge.
What are some of the things Adfinitas Health has done to support you as a physician and mom?
Adfinitas does many things to support the women in our company. One example is flexible scheduling. Our hospital leads who are in charge of clinical schedules put a tremendous effort into granting each individual’s scheduling requests. This allows moms like me to make it to pediatric appointments, recitals, and honor roll assemblies! The most meaningful support I received was the leadership role I now hold at Adfinitas Health. Our Co-Founder, Doug Mitchell said, ‘I think you would be great for this job. I know, from experience with my wife, that women often sell themselves short. Don’t sell yourself short. You have the skills to do this.’ His recognition of my skills and encouragement to push myself into a leadership position have been an invaluable support to me in my career.
Who are your role models?
My professional role models are Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) and Jennifer Lee (writer of Frozen). Both have helped me to understand how women often judge themselves very differently (and usually more harshly) than men do - and consequently hold themselves back. Women often feel unqualified for jobs they are very qualified to do - while men tend to overestimate their abilities.
Sheryl Sandberg helped me to understand the different ways in which women communicate that can make them seem ineffective to the men they work with. Jennifer Lee’s words of encouragement to women to let go of self-doubt and accept that ‘you are enough’ are immensely valuable to me.
Why did you decide to become a doctor?
After receiving my first college application in the mail, I proudly announced to my parents that I had decided to become a nurse, like my mother. My parents looked up and said ‘You can also choose to be a doctor.’ So, I checked the pre-med box instead and the rest was history. My father saw a lot of women in his country of birth trapped in bad marriages because they did not have careers or financial independence that would have afforded them other options. He understood the value of women having their own careers. He often told me and my sister as children and young adults, ‘I don’t want you to have to depend on a man. You need to stand on your own two feet.’ My father never put limits on what we could achieve. My sister also went into a male-dominated field and became a pilot, graduating as 1 of only of 3 or 4 females in her class of over 200 students.
What tips can you offer to other female medical professionals to help them achieve a work-life balance in this demanding field as a woman?
Being a female physician is both a privilege and a sacrifice. If you can accept both, you will be satisfied in medicine. But, as with raising children, the days are long but the years are short. So don’t let life pass you by. Don’t put off until later the things that matter to you for the sake of your career. Find a way to do both! It may take more creativity or walking a less traditional path, but it can be done and will make all aspects of your life more fulfilling. IT IS HARD to find a balance - especially between being a physician and a mom - and most of the time you struggle to feel secure in doing both. But finding a group of women who support you and are traveling the same journey is invaluable. Surround yourself with good colleagues and friends - they make everything better! That is what PMG (Physician Moms Group), the Facebook group created by Hala Sabry (Founder of NWPD) is for a lot of us - a place to commiserate and give each other strength for the challenges ahead.
About Adfinitas Health
Adfinitas Health (formerly MDICS) is the trusted partner of more than 50 healthcare systems, hospitals, and post-acute care centers in the Mid-Atlantic region. Founded in 2007, Adfinitas Health is a physician-owned and managed company that provides high-quality, cost-effective integrated medical services across the full continuum of care in hospitals and post-acute facilities. Our unique integrated staffing model, unwavering commitment to client satisfaction, and focus on improving patient outcomes, makes possible real opportunities to transform care and drive value for our clients. For more information, please visit AdfinitasHealth.com.