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