A Crucial Ministry of CMDA
By Cara Brown, MD, FAAFP, CAG
Why would the women physicians of CMDA need WPC (formerly named Women in Medicine and Dentistry or WIMD)? The same reason that people joke about women going to the bathroom in groups — relationships. It is often said by WPCers that WPC is the only place where all aspects of their lives are understood. “My church friends understand my faith, my colleagues understand the challenges of medicine, and my girlfriends understand my womanhood, but only my sisters in WIMD understand and love all of who God called me to be — a Christian woman physician.” This concept is incorporated in the vision statement of WPC: To be the key resource for Christian women physicians and dentists in integrating their personal, professional, and spiritual lives.
In the early 1990s when the CMDS board created an ad-hoc committee for Women in Medicine & Dentistry (WIMD), 40 percent of medical students were women, and CMDS had 1,300 women doctors. Last year, 48.3 percent of the medical doctorates awarded were to women. These 8,133 female graduates represent the largest number of women earning a doctorate in medicine of any national graduating class to date. Now CMDA has over 4,000 graduate women physician members, comprising 38 percent of the membership. Thus, since CMDA’s vision is “Changing Hearts in Healthcare,” the WPC Commission believes that reaching the hearts of women physicians is essential.
Each woman in medicine or dentistry faces unique challenges in her multiple roles — whether doctor, wife, mother, board member, caregiver of elderly parents, department head, or supporter of struggling family members. The CMDA membership survey revealed that the ranking of some of life’s challenges were significantly different for women than the total CMDA membership. The three challenges with an 8 percent or greater difference from the overall membership were stress/burnout (26 vs. 16 percent), time management (31 vs. 23 percent) and finding a life mate (19 vs. 9 percent). All other challenges such as finding God’s will, parenting, finances and pride were within a 3 percent difference. WPC strives to encourage and support the CMDA membership through these increased challenges.
The WPC Annual Conference has been key to building relationships among women that encourage and support one another. The first WPC director, Rev. Marti Ensign, recently told me, “These ladies just need to be put in a room together.” The conference evaluation comments below reflect the need to connect with like-minded women:
“I just really appreciated being around other women who understood my life, my calling — being accepted for who I am."
“The best features of the program is the openness and the willingness of everyone to discuss their faith and struggles. I realize that I am not alone.”
“Fabulous! The best features of the program are the community and the feeling like I belong.”
“It is great to be with other Christian women who are serving in similar ways that I am — to be inspired by each other — their love for the Lord.”
Our conferences provide more than CME. We strive to offer opportunities for connectedness, authenticity and transparency, and intentional relationships — WPC’s core values. From bonfires to boat rides to a “Heart and Soul” spa, women engage their hearts with one another in the safety of the “sisterhood.” I must admit that I joined the commission partly because I wanted to spend more time with these like-minded sisters.
While the annual conference has been key to many individuals and vital to the growth of WPC over the last two decades, we realize that not every woman can travel to attend the conference every year, thus we are striving to connect in other ways.
Electronic— Years ago, a monthly e-mailed devotional written by women physicians for women physicians began. It is distributed monthly in our enewsletter The Pulse to those who have signed up with WPC. We are also on Facebook and Twitter.
Small groups— There are several local WPC groups around the country providing local support and encouragement to WPCers. Most meet in homes of graduate physicians who have a heart for mentoring. In addition, WPC also launched the GPS (Grasping Power through Surrender) retreats. These are spiritual growth weekends for women doctors to engage in an intense small group. Realizing that marriages of women physicians have complex challenges, WPC also partners with the marriage commission to provide Marriage Enrichment Retreats for women physicians only.
Mission trips — In January 2011, WPC partnered with GHO. The week-long trip was to serve the medical needs and share the gospel with women of the House of Hope in Nicaragua. The House of Hope has a vocational training center for women and girls caught in prostitution and sexual slavery, offering a perfect fit for WPCers to pour out their love and skills for the glory of our Lord — women helping women.
Each of these WPC efforts are consistent with the mission statement of our strategic plan:
- To encourage and support Christian women physicians nd dentists as we share the unique challenges of our multiple roles:
- Through authentic relationships (Acts 2:42)
- Through personal growth (Ps. 119:10)
- Through discipleship and mentoring (Tit. 2:3-4)
- Through professional development (Col. 3:23-24)