Using the 3 Rs - Recognition, Representation and Resources - to Elevate Women

Written by: Julie Oyler, MD; Valerie Press, MD, MPH; Anna Volerman, MD; Vineet Arora, MD, MAPP
Published on: Aug 26, 2021
This article is published in the 2021 edition of the
Women in Medicine Summit Compendium
Click here to find out more and read the other articles

By Julie Oyler, MD; Valerie Press, MD, MPH; Anna Volerman, MD; Vineet Arora, MD, MAPP

The University of Chicago Department of Medicine Women’s Committee (DOM WC) utilizes the 3-Rs approach to elevating women in academic medicine: recognition, representation and resources.

The DOM WC was started in 1999 to develop and enhance the academic environment for women faculty and trainees through networking, mentorship, professional development and advocacy. The University of Chicago Department of Medicine (DOM) has 319 faculty members, 43 percent of whom are women. The DOM WC is composed of 25 women (22 faculty, three trainees) and is led by a female faculty member selected by the department chair and supported by subcommittee chairs, including advocacy, professional development, newsletter and awards..

Starting in 2017, we began using a more metric-based approach to the challenges that women in academics face. We developed a 3-Rs approach to elevating women including: recognition, representation and resources.

We started with a local approach to increasing recognition for women faculty by nominating women for local awards within our department and biological sciences division. From 2006 to 2016, 36 percent (range=25-50 percent; n=79/217) of award recipients in the DOM were women. In 2018, the DOM WC began nominating women for every award hospital-wide. The percent of women awardees significantly increased to 56 percent (range=48-65 percent; n=23/41; p=0.02) (Press, et al, 2021; Oyler, 2019). We then expanded into regional and national awards across many subspecialties.

We are also tracking internal and external grand rounds speaking opportunities for women faculty. The data we collect is shared with section chiefs, who will determine speaker invitations for the next academic year. From 2010 to 2020, 29 percent (66/161) of external speakers and 41 percent (111/163) of internal speakers were women. We also measure the number of times women faculty achievements are highlighted and ensure equal representation across sections and report our findings in our biannual newsletter.

For representation, we have focused on making sure that women faculty are represented in the pictures on the walls as well as in leadership positions and within our training programs. We were able to gain support for increasing the visibility of women faculty on the walls while still maintaining respect for the mostly white, male leaders who were already well represented in the DOM (Oyler, 2018). Currently, pictures of women make up 49 percent of the DOM photos; prior to 2017, there weren’t any women pictured on the department’s walls.

Our committee has also been focusing on the percentage of women in leadership. The DOM maintains a section chief council and an executive council, which are senior leaders who work with the department chair to make high-level decisions and recommendations. In the past, it was not uncommon for these councils to be made up primarily of men. However, with the support of our department chair, search committees and data provided to track leadership, the percentage of women on both of these committees has been increasing. From 2016 to 2021 the percentage of women section chiefs improved from 29 percent to 38 percent (n=16). Over the same time frame the percentage of women on the executive council improved from 31 percent to 50 percent and increased in size from 13 to 18 members. Most recently we have been gathering metrics on the percentage of women trainees in our three main residency programs (internal medicine, dermatology, emergency medicine) and our 10 fellowship programs.

The members of the DOM WC are also working to develop and expand resources for women faculty and trainees. Areas of concern include adequate parental leave, childcare resources, salary equity, grant opportunities, sponsorship opportunities and support for women faculty in other departments across our institution. We examined parental leave policies at local institutions as well as academic medical centers nationally for both faculty and residents and utilized our finding to advocate for policy change at the local and national level (Ortiz Worthington, et al, 2019).

The DOM WC identified available childcare services in close proximity to the university and to areas where faculty traditionally live. We also discussed with faculty the challenges faced in terms of childcare. The committee advocated for the department and institution to conduct an analysis of salary among faculty based on gender and race/ethnicity. In addition, we plan to monitor Research Project Grant (R01) applications to understand the impact of gender on NIH application and awards for physician-scientists. We look forward to continuing the 3-Rs approach to improve the academic environment for women in the years to come..


Julie OylerJulie Oyler, MD

An Associate Professor and Associate Program Director at the University of Chicago Internal Medicine Residency Program. She completed her undergraduate education at Stanford University and her medical degree, internal medicine residency and chief residency at the University of Chicago. She developed the University of Chicago Medicine’s Quality Assessment and Improvement Curriculum, a two-year curriculum which has been used to teach over 400 Internal Medicine residents Practice-Based Learning and Improvement and Systems-Based Practice. Along with colleagues in General Surgery, Pediatrics and Hospital Administration, Dr. Oyler leads a Graduate Medical Education introductory course for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety. She is currently Co-Director for the HealthCare Delivery Science Track at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, which was developed to train medical student leaders in quality improvement and patient safety. Dr. Oyler also teaches quality improvement and patient safety for the AAMC Teach for Quality program, the Society of Hospital Medicine’s Quality and Safety Educator Academy and the American College of Physicians Advance QI program. She practices as a primary care provider on the south side of Chicago. She has been the Chair of the University of Chicago, Department of Medicine Women’s Committee since 2017 and has led initiatives like increasing the presence of “Women on the Walls” and “Increasing Awards Given to Female Faculty in Academics.”

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Valerie PressValerie Press, MD, MPH

An Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics and the Executive Medical Director of Specialty Value Based Care at the University of Chicago. Dr. Press received her MD and MPH degrees from the University of Michigan. She then completed her residency training in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and her Health Services Research Fellowship at the University of Chicago. Since 2010, she has been on the faculty at the University of Chicago, where she has focused her research on developing, implementing and evaluating patient and system-level interventions to improve the quality and value of care for patients with chronic diseases across care settings. In addition to her research program, Dr. Press has roles in clinical administration and medical education and a strong interest in advocacy and equity for patients, learners and clinicians.

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Anna VolermanAnna Volerman, MD

An Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at University of Chicago Medicine. She is a primary care physician for both children and adults, as well as a health services researcher focused on improving systems of care and reducing inequities. She received her Bachelors from Northwestern University and graduated summa cum laude from Boston University School of Medicine. She completed her Internal Medicine / Pediatrics residency training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital / Boston Children’s Hospital. At University of Chicago, she leads clinical, community, education, research, and advocacy initiatives focused on disparities of patients, trainees, and faculty.

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Vineet AroraVineet Arora, MD, MAPP

An academic hospitalist and Dean for Medical Education at the University of Chicago, Biological Sciences Division. As a leader in education and quality improvement, she has spearheaded numerous innovations to engage frontline staff into the institutional quality, safety and value mission. An accomplished researcher, she is PI of numerous NIH grants to evaluate novel interventions that combine systems change with learning theory to improve care, which has resulted in publications that have been cited over 11,000 times. She is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Society of Clinical Investigation. As an advocate for women in medicine, she was featured in The New York Times for an editorial that called for an end to the gender pay gap in medicine. She is a Founding Member of Women of Impact, a 501(c)3 dedicated to advancing women leaders in healthcare and is on the leadership group of the National Academy of Science Engineering and Medicine’s Action Collaborative to End Sexual Harassment in Higher Education.

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