Mirza I. Rahman, MD, MPH, FACPM
While it took Congress until 1987 to declare March as Women's History Month, International Women's Day (IWD) has been celebrated since 1911. It is now commemorated annually on March 8, and this day is a time to recognize and honor the myriad achievements of women.
Additionally, your health care is in women’s hands, starting with your mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, wives, and later your daughters. Women represent 76% of all healthcare workers, and while they are making gains in the higher paying healthcare jobs, for the most part, they work in lower paying jobs, such as home health care aides, nurses, and as primary care physicians. At the ACPM, we are fortunate to have a cadre of dedicated staff comprised of about 80% women, led by our CEO Donna Grande.
IWD is also a time to highlight the inequities that women face on a regular basis, perhaps none more visible than the disparities in earnings of women, as compared to men. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of both full- and part-time workers, in 2020, women only earned 84% of what men earned. So, in many ways, even as we celebrate the women in our lives, if we want to truly support them, we must join them in taking steps to help close the pay gap.
Preventive medicine, with almost 6,700 physicians in this specialty, has 35% of female physicians in it, almost perfectly paralleling the percentage of female physicians in the United States, which is 36%. (As an aside, with only about 2,000 members, ACPM has a great opportunity for growth, given the large number of preventive medicine physicians who we can recruit to join us – so please go out and recruit a friend to join ACPM!)
We at ACPM were fortunate to have had two terrific female Presidents leading us over the past four years. During their tumultuous tenures, we watched the COVID-19 pandemic arrive in all its fury and only now are we seeing it slowly fade, with a return to normalcy just beginning to occur. Drs. Stephanie Zaza & Tonette Krousel-Wood, along with the ACPM Board and the staff, deserve kudos for successfully steering the organization through these challenges. It is a testament to their grit and courage and perseverance that the organization still flourishes, as it could have easily floundered on the rocks of these difficult years.
Two other women I would like to celebrate are Dr. Dorothy Lane, my former residency director at the Stony Brook Preventive Medicine residency program, which she created and still leads. It is by looking to and learning from Dr. Lane that I was first able to even think about serving in ACPM – first on committees, then later as the Treasurer, and now to becoming the President in another week. Role models are vitally important, and Dr. Lane has been that person for me to try and emulate in preventive medicine my entire career. I hope I’ve made her proud as one of her former residents.
My other role model remains my mother, Mrs. Bibi Shareefa Rahman. She continues to display the indefatigable and indomitable spirit that defined her earlier years, working as an immigrant, in a belt factory, for more than 20-years to send all five of her children to college, when her husband, my father, was afflicted with a viral encephalitis that incapacitated him for the rest of his life. Mom never ever complained about anything and to me she represents the epitome of Hemingway’s definition of courage, which is “Grace under pressure.” I cannot be more grateful to her for her sacrifice for her family.
The theme of 2023 for Women's History is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories,” and it seems most appropriate to end by noting that the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was Aretha Franklin, the "Queen of Soul," who was famous for asking for a little "RESPECT” that women deserve.
See you in New Orleans next week!