OMA Spotlight on Health

Women in medicine with Dr. Sharon Bal and Dr. Clover Hemans.

March 06, 2020 Ontario Medical Association Season 1 Episode 12
OMA Spotlight on Health
Women in medicine with Dr. Sharon Bal and Dr. Clover Hemans.
Chapters
OMA Spotlight on Health
Women in medicine with Dr. Sharon Bal and Dr. Clover Hemans.
Mar 06, 2020 Season 1 Episode 12
Ontario Medical Association

March 8th marks International Women's day. This episode features Dr. Sharon Bal and Dr. Clover Hemans co-chairs of the OMA Women Committee. Drs. Bal and Hemans chat about how female patients have been overlooked in medicine, the gender gap and the work the OMA Women committee is focused on. 


Show Notes Transcript

March 8th marks International Women's day. This episode features Dr. Sharon Bal and Dr. Clover Hemans co-chairs of the OMA Women Committee. Drs. Bal and Hemans chat about how female patients have been overlooked in medicine, the gender gap and the work the OMA Women committee is focused on. 


OMA Podcast Episode 12: International Women’s Day with Dr. Sharon Bal and Dr. Clover Hemans

 

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Voice-over: In this podcast the Ontario Medical Association looks at current health issues that are on everyone’s mind. Spotlight on Health gives you the straight talk. We’re Ontario’s doctors and your health matters to us. 

 

This episode explores women in medicine.

 

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Dr. Sharon Bal: My name is Sharon Bal. I'm a family physician from Cambridge-North Dumfries, Waterloo Region, and I'm a proud committee member and co-chair of the OMA Women's Committee. 

 

Dr. Clover Hemans: My name is Clover Hemans. I am a family physician in Halton. I am also a proud member and co-chair of the OMA Women's Committee and president of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada. 

 

Dr. Bal: International Women's Day celebrates the achievements of women using many lenses and across many spheres—cultural, political, economic, and social. It's also a day of social justice and a call for political action for accelerating women's equality. 

 

Dr. Hemans: The theme for International Women's Day this year is that of "Each for Equal." And that means that we're going to be highlighting that individual actions, conversations, behaviours, and mindsets that can have an impact on our larger society. 

 

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Dr. Bal: The health gap is a really important topic for female patients. I think that no one can argue that men and women's health care needs differ. There are physiologic differences, like circumstance and stage differences, and cultural challenges that are often overlooked. An example of the health gap and some of the work that our committee has done is aligning, recently, around heart disease in Canadian women. 

 

So, heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in Canada. Heart disease kills more women than men, but women continue to be under-researched, under-diagnosed, and under-treated. And recently there was trendings on social media to increase awareness around this, and our committee was involved with propagating this message to increase awareness around this one particular health issue.

 

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Dr. Hemans: This also goes beyond heart disease. We can talk about mental health—depression and anxiety, and trauma-informed mental health disorders significantly affect women more than men—and the diagnosis of women. So this is an opportunity for us to highlight that gap and advocate for it to change. Even the treatment for cancer, we know that cancer treatments do better if they're individualized.

 

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Dr. Bal: There are a number of conditions that directly affect only women just by virtue of our biology. You know, an example of course, our gynecologic conditions, pelvic pain syndromes, endometriosis, pregnancy-related issues, breast-related issues, just to name a few.

 

And to bring these top of mind, there needs to be, of course, women leaders, leaders in policymaking, in system design, of course women providers, including women physicians, committees like ours. And these conditions traditionally have not been researched, I believe, with the same rigour and resource that many conditions that have fully affected men have been. So this is another example of why we do see a gender gap.

 

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Dr. Hemans: I like to say that we need to act locally but think globally, and for each of our interactions that we have, they may have very far-reaching influences. It may help to highlight some of the inequities that they miss and can change things on a local basis, but that may occur globally.

 

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Dr. Bal: A great deal of conversation is happening right now around the gender pay gap. We know in 2019 a woman earned just 79 cents for every dollar a man made. A recent study by doctors Fahima Dossa and Nancy Baxter at St. Michael's Hospital show that female surgeons in Ontario earn 24% less per hour while operating compared to male surgeons. 

 

I think this is a really sentinel point and something that perhaps the broader public is not aware of. 

 

There's been a lot of conversation about why that's happening. That women physicians—in spite of, as a whole, spending more time with patients, and having research that actually shows that they often are related to having better patient outcomes—it's quite shocking and concerning that the gender pay gap affects us as physicians as much as it does all of our other counterparts.

 

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Dr. Hemans: This goes well beyond what I call the 24%. The expectation—and I've spoken to my female colleagues, and I've asked them for their opinion, and, without a doubt, they look at me and they roll their eyes and they say, "But of course this is our experience." 

 

We know that we don't get the same referrals. We are asked to see the difficult patients that have a lot of social issues because they feel we'll take the time. These are often for operations or procedures that remunerate poorly but require a longer time. 

 

So as a physician, needless to say, I'm interested in the gender pay gap for medicine. This is actually a much more complex area than simply looking at dollars and pennies. It's really about value; valuing the individual, valuing their work, recognizing that gender should really not play a part in your renumeration, but also recognizing that it does. 

 

The OMA is taking it on; we need to understand why we have it and how we can improve on that.

 

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Dr. Bal: We're really excited about our Women's Health Seminar, which is our marquee event that the OMA Women's Committee runs annually. This year it's going to be taking place April 30 in Toronto, and our theme this year is moving the dial on gender equity, in terms of equity at home, in the workplace, in leadership, and beyond.

 

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Dr. Hemans: There will be an opportunity to partner with another aspect of the OMA in an area called “OMATalks with OMA Women,” where we're going to have a panel discussion that includes some leaders in our industry, as I want to call it, with a fabulous moderator. 

 

We hope to have a lot of audience participation here, and I really look forward to that. I'm going to be learning a lot. There's something to learn from all of this. There will be take home pearls for everyone. So all are welcome. 

 

I think it's gonna be quite dynamic, and I personally am looking forward to it. 

 

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Voice-over: Check out our next episode on addiction, phones, and social media. 

 

This podcast is brought to you by the Ontario Medical Association. It is produced and edited by Jodi Crawford Productions. This podcast is not intended to provide medical advice for specific situations and is for general educational purposes only. Please consult your doctor if you have symptoms or questions about your health.

 

For more information, please visit our website at oma.org.

 

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