rAdIoLoGy NoTeS 12 - Dra. 6/28/2008 05:20:00 pm

The subtitle of this post happens to be one of my less irritating current pet-peeves. A certain radtech has started calling me "Dra." (Yes, you do pronouce it in the way you spell it... Not "doktora", but "dra") and everybody else in the department is joining the bandwagon... Of course, it means "doktora", but alternate meanings are as follows: "drama queen", "dramatics", "hydra"... Oh, the list could go on with a lot of smart-alecky staff around you (although, the last one actually came to me in a conversation with the radtechs... ). I guess that's precisely what you get if you're the only female resident in the department training for a male-dominated specialty...

I studied elementary and high school at an exclusive girls school. I took biology as a preparatory undergraduate course for medical school in a female dominated class. In medical school, approximately 70% of our class consisted of female students. My senior clerkship group (in my part of the country, we usually refer to it as internship), consisted of five females and only three males. When I did my internship (in my part of the country, we refer to it as post-graduate internship or pgi), my first group was all-female. In my second group (I did PGI mid-year) I had only two male groupmates (and one of them is an outed homosexual, the other one, people had been speculating on for a time, though he now has a girlfriend). I have more female friends than male friends. I also lend a hand to a foundation that specifically caters to female youth. I was definitely in for a culture shock of sorts...

I actually applied for residency at two hospitals, and at both hospitals, they asked me whether or not i was married, or had plans to get married, musing on the possibility that I might get pregnant while doing my training (the other residents will have to cover for a pregnant radiology resident doing and supervising radiographic procedures due to fetal risks). Then, at the other hospital I applied to (not the one I am currently working in), one of the interviewers specifically stated that in a span of two or so years, they had two residents resign, and both of them happend to be female. At the back of my mind, I was already thinking that they won't accept me (which was a blessing in disguise since I was more keen on doing residency where I currently am now). That was exactly what happened although I think my gender was not the main reason (I think they were more keen on accepting the other two applicants who had their PGI in the same hospital).

When I did begin residency, I had to adjust to a predominantly male work environment. There is only one female radtech in general radiology (the rest of them are in the women's imaging center), and only one female interventional radiology nurse. I answer to only one female radiology consultant. The receptionist and secretaries though are all female. At our monthly meetings with radiology residents training in our city, I found out that only two of us are female, and she is already about to end her training while I am just starting mine. Hopefully, more females will take up radiology in our place in the years to come. Otherwise, I will have to contend with the fact that I'll be the only female radiology resident in the years to come.

I still detest having to listen to my seniors and other staff comment on the way certain females look/dress/etc. Sometimes, they start talkig about their night out at some lewd place (Do they sometimes forget there is actually a female working nearby or is it just to irritate me?) I still put my foot down on any joke or conversation in any shade of green (Totally inappropriate in any working environment, or any environment for that matter even if to some, the mere fact we are in the medical field, anything goes in that direction...).

The equipment are actually more tailored to be handled by male staff. The fluoroscopy machine's image internsifier is bulky, heavy and a little difficult to manipulate, more so if it gets stuck in one place ever so often. The lead gowns are heavy. The cassettes are also heavy. Giving an intravenous push of contrast also requires some degree of force. Preventing a hematoma after taking out a femoral catheter also requires some force (Perhaps that's why the interventional radiologist has not yet asked me to remove a femoral catheter from any of his post-coil embolization patients?) In the first few months, our chief resident has occasionally joked that I consider working out to build some upper body strength.

Not having had a female radiology resident for the past three years has sort of confused the nursing staff. Just one of the many cases to point:

Department Receptionist: Doktora, telephone call.

Me: Hello, Ma'am?

Nurse: Who's this? I'm looking for the radiology resident.

Me: Ma'am, this is Dr. J.A., the radiology resident.

Nurse: Hello, Ma'am, we have a referral for Dr. --- at room --- for ultrasound-guided liver biopsy.

Me: Who's the primary atttending physician?

Nurse: Dr. ***

Me: Ok, I'll inform, Dr. ---.

Nurse: Who's this again, Ma'am? Are you going to tell the radiology resident?

Me(now a little bit irritated): Ma'am, this is Dr. J.A., the radiology resident.

Nurse: (Pause) Ah, ok, Doctor.

Some female patients undergoing more delicate special radiographic procedures (i.e. a hysterosalpingogram) do appreciate that the resident around is female. At one time, a patient did request for a female resident. It was a good thing that it was also my assigned day for special radiographic procedures. I have no qualms about doing a urethrogram on an adult male patient though. It is part of my job, and anyway, more likely that not, the staff around are also male. At one time though, while supervising a voiding cystourethrogram, I decided to leave the room while the radtech was doing overhead films as I thought that the young boy might have inhibitions on urinating while an unrelated female was around.

I still get a little irked when some patients still refer to me as "Miss" or "Ma'am" while I am wearing a doctor's coat. I guess the average Filipino mentality still thinks females in white at a hospital are nurses while males in white at a hospital are doctors.

4 other thoughts:

Manggy said...

Hi Dr. J.A., thanks for this entry. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and it was interesting to hear a woman's point of view.

I think the "Ma'am" or "Doktora" is a matter of convention-- where I was an intern, all seniors to me were Sir or Ma'am. I understand in UST, they use "Doctor" (don't know about "Doctora"). Actually I'm a little bewildered by the "Doktora" label; it's a dated carry-over of noun feminization from Romantic languages; it should be "Doktor" for all doctors regardless of sex, period.

I guess in a perfect world, professionalism would be valued more than "pakikisama." Somehow I feel like if I'm not as boorish as the rest of the guys, making inappropriate jokes, I would be respected less. How crazy is that?! But you do have the right attitude and I applaud you for it.

On the converse, I think your chief res has voiced a legitimate concern. Working out would make you highly efficient and would silence any doubts by others. I don't think being physically fit is particularly masculine-- it's just the flipside of the fallacy that women are weak. Actually, wearing a lead gown often and working the fluoroscope would probably be a cheap substitute for a gym, ha ha ha!

Keep up the good work and professionalism. It won't be long before the nurses will look for you by name ;)

J.A. said...

I really don't have the time to work-out, Dr. Manggy. ;)
Well, I always keep to my principles, no matter what happens. I sort of got into trouble for some of those things while an intern and PGI, but I lived. :)
The work environment here is pretty laid back so I'm still working on injecting even a little bit more professionalism...
BTW, some of my female senior clerks (they spend 15 days in our department) think it's pretty cool to see a female handle the fluoroscopy machine with ease and wear a lead gown like it's nothing. I always tell them: After 2 months, you get the hang of it... ;)
Interestingly, in this techy field, I'm the most technologically savvy among us four residents. They usually ask me to solve problems with our virus-filled computer... Go figure...

MerryCherry, MD said...

Love you post J.A. Natuwa ako magbasa.

Funny because my post is actually the anti-thesis of yours. That at this point, I don't mind anymore if I am being called Dra. because I feel like for some people, it's just out of habit and they really don't mean anything by it.

But when they do, we gotta give them a taste of what we can do. Hehe :)

gigi said...

I am guessing that the habit of calling a female doctor "Doktora" does stem out from a tendency of the Spanish language (and French I think) to provide genders to all things whether alive or inanimate. (No such thing as neuter. :)) And I have to admit that I also went through the phase when I get irked with the "Doktora" label.

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