Healthcare is Female: Baptist Health Specialists 'Breaking Through That Glass Ceiling'

March is Women’s History Month – a time to honor and celebrate the contributions of women across time, places, cultures and professions — including healthcare.

“There’s no better way to celebrate than to showcase a few of Baptist Health doctors who each and every day are breaking through that glass ceiling in their own ways,” said Olga Villaverde, South Florida PBS’ Health Channel host, who yesterday hosted the Healthcare is Female Resource LIVE from Baptist Health’s newsroom.

The panelists: Dalibel Bravo, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute; Jobyna Whiting, M.D., the director of degenerative spine surgery at Miami Neuroscience Institute;, and  Heather Johnson, M.D., a preventive cardiologist with the Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health & Wellness Institute at Boca Raton Regional Hospital.  

Fewer than 40 percent of physicians in the U.S. are female, added Ms. Villaverde. “And the more specialized a field is, the fewer female doctors you’ll find, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. However, there is a steady increase in the number of female medical students, which we are thrilled to say and celebrate … right here at Baptist Health.”

Here are excerpts from the Resource LIVE, which can be seen in its entirety here:

Ms. Villaverde: This kind of inspiration really opens the doors for so many women out there who wonder: Is it a man’s world in this field? Do I stand a chance? And the answer is yes, yes.”

Dr. Bravo:
“Yes, definitely. When I chose orthopedic surgery, many people would either raise their eyebrows or say something … say things like: You know, aren’t you a little small? I’m sitting down now, but I’m petite. I’m five, three. And like: Aren’t you a little small to be an orthopedic surgeon? Like where are your muscles? And I would show them my muscles. I’d say I’m way stronger than many of those orthopedic surgeons out there. And then one of my mentors would always say: If you need a brute, or if you need brute force, we can find a brute. It’s easy to find a brute to do something that you can’t.

“But I was able to go through, orthopedic surgery residency without any problem. And many females have followed me. And, really, again, it’s what we’ve echoed before — mentorship. I had so many of my mentors. They’d say: You can do it. You can do this. And they were all mostly men. I know that we do want mentors that look like us, but there are also mentors that are men that have supported me throughout my career… and told me that I can do whatever I set out to do.”

Ms. Villaverde: Being a woman in medicine and healthcare, which is what we’re talking about, has that affected your outlook or your mindset when it comes to treating patients, and if so, how?

Dr. Johnson:
“I am definitely motivated, not as far as just also quality of life and treating patients understanding as far as heart disease, but the importance of community education and events such as this. This is critical as far as reaching out into the community and letting people know especially young women — you can definitely achieve your dreams. And there is not a thought that is too much or too hard that it is not possible. Each of us are also highlighting the importance of mentorship, the importance of support, the importance of having organizations and people surrounding you to help get you to that next step — to be able to stand with you and support you and say: Yes, you can go ahead and be the first woman or begin to allow more women into a field.

“And even in cardiology — so few women in interventional cardiology. And we are definitely spreading the word. And so that’s why I love what I do because it allows me to connect, not just with the patient in front of me, but also the community as a whole. So, thank you again for this opportunity.”

Ms. Villaverde: Dr. Whiting … women breaking the glass ceiling. You are a neurosurgeon. You know there is a relatively large gap between male and female there as well, right?

Dr. Whiting:
“For sure. Yes. I love hearing what Dr. Bravo had to say and how she’s involved in things where they’re working to actually bring more women into the field. I was recently at a dinner where my previous chairman and mentor, Dr. William Friedman, was being honored. And we were sort of introducing him and giving our little anecdotes. And I just remember that when I really sat down to think about it, the fact that he hired me as a woman — only the third woman to graduate from that program.

“It was kind a risk for him to take. And when I looked out at the table full of current residents of UF (University of Florida) neurosurgery, there were more than half of them who were women. And it was a diverse group of people. It wasn’t a group at a table where every face looked the same. And I’m just so proud of the progress that we’re making. There’s a lot to do still, but we are definitely, definitely moving in the right direction.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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