Sept. 24, 2021 – Nearly 100 years ago in 1925, the University of Florida began admitting female students for the first time. Over the decades, women have become significant contributors and, in some fields, the majority group.
Today about 36% of physicians in the U.S. are women, and this year’s incoming medical school class at the UF College of Medicine includes 53% women. September is the American Medical Association’s Women in Medicine Month, an annual event to honor female physicians and clinicians who’ve used their time to help advance the health care careers of other women.
Women in Medicine and Science, or WIMS, at the UF College of Medicine is a group dedicated to this task, as well as to recognizing the accomplishments of female college educators, clinicians, researchers and leaders. UF’s WIMS hosts events and seminars and participates in community outreach efforts to facilitate professional growth for all College of Medicine women. All College of Medicine faculty can become involved in WIMS with no formal membership required.
Stacy Beal, M.D. ’09, a UF clinical associate professor of pathology and the chair of the advisory board for WIMS at UF, said it’s been important for her to connect with other women to become a better physician.
One component of WIMS, called villages, links women from the college in small groups of 10 to 15 to hold monthly meetings to connect and discuss various topics. There’s a village for leadership, another for balancing your life, one for members of the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies, and more. Women can join multiple villages.
“I became part of one village years ago that I still meet with every month,” Beal said. “It’s given me a chance to meet so many great women from all over the College of Medicine, and it’s so important to have that kind of a support system.”
Beal said it’s not always easy juggling life as a clinician, leader and mom. She and her husband, Casey Beal, M.D. ’09, a UF Health ophthalmologist, have two young daughters, Elsie, 5, and Ruby, 2.
“They make me laugh,” Beal said. “It’s certainly made my mornings and evenings a lot busier, but a lot of the skills you have as a mother and a leader are the same, like having patience when working with others, being a good listener, meeting someone where they’re at and trying to see things from their perspective.”
Beal also said every day is a marathon, so it’s important to set aside time for yourself during the day. She likes to take short walks, stretch or watch a funny YouTube video.
She said it’s rewarding to help other women grow as leaders through opportunities like WIMS and to show her daughters the positive impact her work has on the community.
“Often at dinnertime, our conversations will be about an interesting patient or the great treatments that really helped someone,” Beal said.
She said it can be easy to forget about yourself when you’re assisting patients all day then caring for family at home.
“There are days when I don’t feel like I do any of it well,” Beal said. “But I have to think to myself, ‘Well, I made my kids a healthy breakfast and everyone at work turned in their duty hour form.’ You have to keep those small victories in mind.”