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Professional News
Women Psychiatrists Mentor APA's Future Leaders
Psychiatric News
Volume 41 Number 17 page 17-17
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From left: Ann Genovese, M.D., Jo-Ellyn Ryall, M.D., Carolyn Robinowitz, M.D., Jeanne Lackamp, M.D., Cheryl Jennifer Buda, M.D., Judith Kashtan, M.D., Roslyn Seligman, M.D., Juliette Petersen, M.D., DeLaney Smith, M.D., Laura Hirshbein, M.D., and Kelly Rogalski, M.D., pose after a professional-development seminar in which women leaders in psychiatry helped younger colleagues prepare to become the next generation of leaders.  Eve Bender

Even in the 21st century, women psychiatrists encounter glass ceilings and brick walls in their quest to assume leadership positions in organized psychiatry.

Certain skills and attitudes can go a long way in helping them to get ahead, according to seasoned psychiatrists who have distinguished themselves with many career firsts.

To help women members-in-training (MITs) and early career psychiatrists (ECPs) break through those walls and ceilings, Roslyn Seligman, M.D., the Assembly's Women's Caucus representative, convened a professional development seminar focusing on women in leadership in kansas City in July.

Seligman told Psychiatric News that "women aren't given the opportunity to assume leadership positions" on the scale that men are, and that by convening the meeting, she hoped to provide Area 4 MITs and ECPs with the ability to network with one another and discuss strategies to assume leadership roles in their district branches and professional medical associations.

Attending meetings and asking questions, volunteering to take on new tasks, learning how to negotiate, and getting a basic understanding of finances were among the suggestions shared by faculty at the seminar.

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One topic that provoked discussion at the meeting was balancing leadership and family responsibilities.

By the time APA President-elect Carolyn Robinowitz, M.D., graduated from medical school at Washington University in St. Louis, she was one of six women in her class. "We were seen as a bit of an oddity" by the male students, she noted.

When during medical school it was discovered that she was getting married, she was the object of any number of salacious jokes from male students, she recalled.

While a psychiatry resident at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Bronx Municipal Hospital Center, she had two children. Robinowitz volunteered to be chief resident to ensure that she could coordinate her schedule with that of her husband's so that one of them was always home with their children." I tried to be fair, and none of the residents complained," she remarked. "I learned to be a nurturing leader."

Robinowitz joined APA as a deputy medical director and director of the Department of Education in 1976 and was one of two women psychiatrists on staff (Jeanne Spurlock, M.D., joined APA as deputy medical director and head of APA's office of Minority/National Affairs in 1974). In addition, Robinowitz was the first woman elected to the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. She also went on to be one of the few women to serve as a dean at a medical school: from 1995-2000, she was associate dean and then academic dean at Georgetown University.

In the early days especially, being a woman leader was often lonely, she said, because there were few other women leaders with whom she could talk." What I learned is that you really need a support system—like-minded people with whom you can communicate."

Robinowitz advised women psychiatrists poised to assume leadership positions to look to the business literature for helpful information regarding leadership and gender roles. A good dose of humor, she observed, can be an effective tool for bringing people together and diffusing uncomfortable or difficult situations. She also suggested that women ally themselves not only with other women, but with male colleagues and leaders as well.

Seligman seconded this last advice, noting that "it is important to formally recognize those men who support women" in their careers. Putting that belief into action, she presented Ronald Burd, M.D., with the Good Guy award for suggesting the leadership seminar. Burd was recently elected recorder of the APA assembly

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Judith kashtan, M.D., the Minnesota Psychiatric Society representative to the Assembly and a member of APA's Finance and Budget Committee, began to be aware of women's issues by participating in what were known as" consciousness-raising" groups as an undergraduate at Brown University in the 1960s.

"This was my first experience of bonding with women and understanding them as strong, capable people," she noted.

She joined a women medical student's group at Wayne State University as one of about 30 women in a class of 256. During medical school, kashtan joined the medical school's admissions committee and learned a great deal from that experience, she said.

One of the valuable lessons she learned during residency training was that women physicians should not shy away from demanding the same salaries as their male colleagues. Women physicians and other women professionals, she found, tend to ask for less pay at the start of their careers, which keeps them on a lower salary track despite periodic raises.

"Never be afraid to discuss money" with potential employers, kashtan said. "Don't treat money as a dirty topic—learn about what others in the community earn and make sure that you get paid a comparable amount."

In the experience of Area 4 Assembly Representative Jo-Ellyn Ryall, M.D.," if you volunteer to take the lead and do a good job, you'll be asked [to take the lead role] again." Ryall, who also serves as chair of the Assembly Procedures Committee, has held many leadership positions within APA and other medical organizations both locally and nationally.

Ryall served as the first speaker of the American Medical Women's Association from 1993 to 1995. She has also been a Missouri delegate to the AMA since 1995 and an alternate delegate since 1989.

"We need to show others that it is possible for women to take the lead and to excel even as they continue to balance responsibilities in other areas that remain important to them—such as family and community," said Ryall. "Women need to make choices and prioritize at all times since it is impossible to do everything and be everything. Being able to choose what is important is a sign of leadership." ▪

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From left: Ann Genovese, M.D., Jo-Ellyn Ryall, M.D., Carolyn Robinowitz, M.D., Jeanne Lackamp, M.D., Cheryl Jennifer Buda, M.D., Judith Kashtan, M.D., Roslyn Seligman, M.D., Juliette Petersen, M.D., DeLaney Smith, M.D., Laura Hirshbein, M.D., and Kelly Rogalski, M.D., pose after a professional-development seminar in which women leaders in psychiatry helped younger colleagues prepare to become the next generation of leaders.  Eve Bender

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