Today, I am featuring a guest post from Dr. Keya Locke, a bright young Anesthesia Resident. Her story might seem familiar to some of you. Through her experience, we hope to shine a light on the difficulty faced by women who aspire to leadership positions in medicine. This is why women physicians already in leadership positions need to reach a helping hand out to young up and coming women physicians.
In her words:
“I was so disappointed.
As I sit and reflect on my experience at the ASA (American Society of Anesthesiology) Resident Governing Council elections, I find that I am honestly surprised that at that time I forgot the glaring truth that I have always known. I am usually very cognizant of the fact that as a black female in medicine, the odds are NOT in my favor. But, as I arrived at the ASA the day before the big event, not once did this thought cross my mind. I was bubbling with excitement, overwhelmed by the rainbow of physician anesthesiologists from all over the world that were present.
Nor did I find it odd that one of my competitors (a white male), greeted me by name and asked if I was ready for the elections. He then proceeded to ask me if I thought anyone would drop out because the competition was so steep. Odd, but I was not deterred. If anything, I was just a little annoyed that he continued to follow my colleagues and me to different events, shaking hands with those around me. In retrospect, he was campaigning amongst my own friends and I was none the wiser. Strike one.
As the evening drew to an end and we all started to retire for the night, I started to get nervous. That night before the election, I could barely sleep. I paced the hotel room reciting my speech over and over in my mind. The speech that had been vetted by multiple people, and deemed excellent. Even as I listened to my words in my own voice, my message was striking. And I remember thinking, I got this. If only I had realized at that point that Strikes 2 and 3 had already been dealt, maybe I wouldn’t have had that awful feeling of disappointment and fear that gripped me so vividly when the results were read. If only I had acknowledged that early knot in my stomach when I walked into that massive Hall B and saw Dr. Linda Young on the stage, not only the only black person on the current council but also the only woman. But I didn’t. I brushed that tinge of fear from my mind and focused on the task at hand. Again I remember thinking, I’ve got this.
I delivered my speech, listened to the applause, and happily shook hands with people as I came off the stage who congratulated me on a great speech. And then they announced the results. And it hit me like a wave. The feeling that I was just a silly black girl who did not belong, and everybody knew it. As I watched the confident white males who had won smile and shake hands, I wanted to run. It was the same feeling I had when I walked into my first class of medical school. “You don’t belong and everyone knows it”.
You’re out….Its only then that I realized that strikes 2 and 3 had been dealt long before I walked into that hall. Only then did I remember, that as a black female in medicine the odds are NOT in your favor. It’s only then that I realized that every member elected was a white male, save, wait for it, the Secretary. Only then did I really see the stats, in that of all the people running, only two were black. I was one. Only four were female, including me. And two of those females were running for Secretary, while I was in the most competitive category, running for ASA delegate to the AMA.
I didn’t realize that I needed to campaign in a very strategic and decisive way. My race and my gender were the strikes against me. Now, when with time, that sting has eased, I try and decipher what I can learn from this experience.
One, when the odds are not in your favor you need to change the odds. For me that means breaking my own silence and telling my story, standing in my truth and letting the chips fall where they may. Two, find allies. I have now aligned myself with strong like-minded women. Strength in numbers, as the saying goes. Three, while I may have been disappointed, with just the fact that I chose to run for that election and that there was only one other African American female, Dr. Young, sitting on that stage, the conversation has been started.
For me my journey is just beginning. I dare not stop here. So look out, “I am Woman, hear me roar”…..
Keya Locke MD
Florida Delegate to the ASA
University of Florida-Jacksonville
Department of Anesthesia
How many of you have had similar experiences? What would you have done differently?
Please share in the comments or on social media.
Photo credit: commons.wikipedia.com