Q&A: A Discussion of Sexism in Medicine

Dr Cooper: What do you think it will take to overcome sexism in medicine? What solutions can you think of?

Dr Barney: When I did my new-employee training, I had to watch videos about harassment in the workplace. I was surprised to learn that harassment is whatever the victim feels it is. 

So the burden of proof is on the victim. And the burden is on all of us in the workplace to make sure that harassment doesn’t happen.

I think we can apply this attitude of tolerance of such harassment to American society as a whole, and the tolerance needs to change first before anything else will. There have recently been several “women marches” followed by tons of people on Facebook — both men and women — bashing the women marching and ridiculing them. Comments were along the lines of “how dare women complain, because these women could be in burqas getting beaten in Afghanistan.”

I even saw comments that we have the luxury of walking around “half naked” in sexy clothes. How ridiculous! Do we lack such depth that Americans think women can be characterized only two ways in this society — either covered up or as sex objects?

The women who marched must have felt that there was a problem that shouldn’t be ignored. We need to listen and understand their concerns, rather than deny that the concerns exist or put the burden of proof on the victims. If women are marching at all in 2017, then clearly we are not equal. That is the proof.

Dr Cooper: What can your male medical colleagues do to help in the battle against sexism?

Dr Barney: I think it’s very simple, really. We want respect and professionalism. We just want to be treated as the doctors that we are.

Dr Cooper: Thank you very much for a very interesting and enlightening interview. I’m sure this will help to open our eyes to the unfortunate persistence of sexism in medicine and elsewhere.

Dr Barney: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with Medical Bag readers.


About Elise Barney, DO

Dr Barney is board certified in internal medicine and nephrology. She received her medical degree at Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine (AZCOM), Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona. She completed her internal medicine residency at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center and at the VA Medical Center, both in Phoenix. She completed her fellowship in nephrology and hypertension at UCLA-Olive View Medical Center in California. She is a clinical assistant professor in internal medicine at AZCOM and at The University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix. She is currently a staff nephrologist at the VA Medical Center in Phoenix.


About Joel Cooper, DO

Dr Cooper is a contributing writer for The Medical Bag and a board-certified family physician currently working in urgent care in the Phoenix area.

This article originally appeared on Medical Bag