March is Women’s History month and today is International Women’s Day. Originally designated as National Women’s History Week by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, Congress designated March as Women’s History Month in 1987. Each year, the National Women’s History Alliance selects a theme, and this year’s theme is Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.
Women were first admitted to our medical school during World War I, with the plan to only train women during the war as an emergency measure. The first female MCV graduate was Dr. Innis Steinmetz in 1920. In 2019, we celebrated 100 years of women on the MCV campus. We are fortunate to have one of the most longstanding AAMC groups for women in medicine and science group in the country. Our group, called Women in Science, Dentistry and Medicine (WISDM) aims to advance women physicians, scientists and trainees at all levels in our organization. We’ve sent a steady stream of women leaders to the prestigious Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine® (ELAM) for Women program for additional training and development. Our ELAM graduates all benefitted greatly from their ELAM training and have taken on key institutional leadership roles.
In acknowledgement of the month, our SOM DEI page features some wonderful profiles and events. Information about the VCU Health Women’s History Month Celebration is available on the health system intranet. The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs is hosting a series of events throughout the month. On April 19, WISDM will host VCU alum Olivia Campbell to discuss her book, “Women in White Coats,” which presents the stories of three pioneering women and the gender barrier obstacles they overcame to become physicians. I hope you will attend some of these wonderful programs.
Although we have made much progress, gender discrimination and sexual harassment are still prevalent in medicine and society. Unfortunately, we are not immune to these important problems. Please take some time this month to reflect on our own biases and how we can work together to address these issues, as well as to show gratitude and appreciation to the women who are important in each of our lives and working as key team members to advance the School of Medicine’s missions.
David Chelmow, M.D.
Interim Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Interim Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System