“How men can excel as mentors for women” A WIMHS conversation with Janet Bickel

Posted by mbauman on May 12th, 2015 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Many mentoring relationships do not reach fruition because the individuals fail to bridge a critical difference. When a difference prevents a learning partnership from achieving its potential, the loss is multidimensional for the individuals and the institution—wasting opportunities for the fostering of current and future talent. –  Janet Bickel, MA, and Susan L. Rosenthal, PhD Academic Medicine, Vol. 86, No. 10 / October 2011 

Earlier this spring, Janet Bickel visited UCDMC and presented her research on “How men can excel as mentors to women”.  The jointly sponsored presentation by WIMHS and the Office of the Associate Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Inclusion was attended by a number of male and female students, residents and faculty, as well as UCDMC leadership.  Following a lively discussion at the conclusion of the presentation, Melissa Bauman had a chance to ask some follow up questions:Janet Bickel (third from the rights) with UCDMC Ladership.

Janet Bickel (third from the right) with UCDMC Leadership.


Welcome back to UC Davis!  Prior to your visit WIMHS distributed two of your recent publications, “How Men Can Excel as Mentors of Women” and “Difficult Issues in Mentoring: Recommendations on Making the “Undiscussable” Discussable”.  The topics of complex mentor-mentee relationships you described are certainly not uncommon in academic medicine. What sparked this area of interest?  I hope one of the values of my papers is to provide mentors with a framework to begin to evaluate some of their own assumptions.  Perhaps a female mentee would be able to give a copy to her mentor and simply say, “I have found this helpful and would you be willing to read it too because I know that you are dedicated to mentoring”.  That may provide a platform to begin to explore these issues together.

In your papers you describe difficulties that well-intentioned mentors face as their mentees begin to transition into more independent positions.  Your data suggest that this can be particularly difficult when the mentor is a man and the mentee is a woman.  What advice would you have for someone dealing with these issues?  Mentees need to be brave and ask difficult questions.  If you notice that your mentor is detaching, or perhaps providing different support to male mentees, then asking questions is key.  I’m hoping one of the values of my research is to provide mentees with tools to share with their mentors. As described in my article “Discussing the undiscussable” – it is natural for sensitive issues to arise and this provides a tool for approaching these topics with your mentor.  So often the conditioning of the mentee is to avoid difficult conversations with their mentor, but if we can move towards those questions earlier in the process we may be able to address these issues.  So asking your mentor “I’ve noticed a change in how you challenge me or support me.  What have you noticed?” opens the door to address these issues.  Of course, if the mentor is defensive or doesn’t engage than that’s data that this person is unprepared to have the type of conversation that is needed to progress.  At that point, it is up to the mentee to take responsibility and find different sources of mentorship.

Perhaps a more appropriate question is how to select a good mentor in the first place.  What advice do you have for identifying mentors who will be able to successfully navigate complex mentor-mentee relationships, and support the mentee’s transition to independence? I think a lot depends on the security of the mentor and their willingness to consider other points of view. Most mentors are well intentioned, but you also need to consider how they may receive feedback.  You need a realistic assessment of how the mentor-mentee relationship is going.  Unfortunately, it seems to be true that those who most need to ask for feedback have the most resistance to it.

How do these issues contribute to the attrition of female faculty? Well, it is never any one issue. I think this is where we are now.  It is a half changed world for women. We have achieved educational equity to a large extent, and yet, what we have learned is that are a number of variables contributing to attrition are multifaceted and resistant to change.

WIMHS thanks Janet Bickel for taking the time to meet with us and discuss this important line of research.  Links to the articles are provided below – please distribute to mentors and mentees alike!

Acad Med. 2014 Aug;89(8):1100-2. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000313. How men can excel as mentors of women. Bickel J http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24853197

Acad Med. 2014 Dec;89(12):1610-3. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000428. Discussing the undiscussable with the powerful: why and how faculty must learn to counteract organizational silence. Dankoski ME1, Bickel J, Gusic ME. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25054412

Coming up next month, Joan C. Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law will address work-life balance challenges in a presenation entitled, “Can I have a full career and a full life?”

Please register online for the June 11th events using the link below and join us for another WIMHS sponsored event.

Online Registration: https://somapp.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/academicaffairs/courses/secure/Courses.cfm?Status=10

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WIMHS Fall 2014 Welcome

Posted by mbauman on October 13th, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

On September 28th, 2014 our Women in Medicine and Health Sciences (WIMHS) program hosted the annual Fall Welcome Reception for new faculty. WIMHS Co-director, Dr. Amparo Villblanca, welcomed a large group of new and returning female faculty members and highlighted recent and upcoming WIMHS activities. We were also joined by the Dean of the School of Medicine, Dr. Julie Freischlag, and other UCDMC leaders in support of women’s careers in academic medicine. Check out the pictures from the event below!


The start of a new academic year is always so exciting- and the WIMHS Welcome Event was such an energizing event. We now have many generations of women in medicine and we had representatives from all of them at the Welcome Event. Listening to all of our voices now is like an orchestra – each of us contributing a different sound to create a beautiful symphony. I look forward to all the music we will make in the future!  -  Dr. Julie Freischlag


To further strengthen WIMHS connections we have developed two avenues of social media that allow us to reach out to faculty members who may not be able to attend WIMHS events in person.

FACEBOOK:  Lydia Howell does an amazing job of providing up to date access to interesting articles related to women’s careers in health science and highlighting the accomplishments of our female faculty.  Our Facebook page reaches hundreds of individuals each week, and many of the posting go “viral”. If you are not already on Facebook, it is worth joining just to see what Lydia posts next!

BLOG: This post marks the two year anniversary of our WIMHS blog!  If you would like to participate as a guest blogger of have a suggested topic, please email WIMHS member, Melissa Bauman mdbauman@ucdavis.edu


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WIMHS Welcomes New Vice Chancellor and Medical School Dean, Dr. Julie Ann Freischlag

Posted by mbauman on July 18th, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

VC-Freischlag-1WIMHS member, Dr. Melissa Bauman, had a chance to interview Dean Freischlag and welcome her to UC Davis. We invite you to attend the WIMHS annual Fall Welcome event on Sunday, September 28th from 4:00-6:00pm at Il Fornaio to meet the dean and other  health system leaders.

WIMHS would like to extend a warm welcome to the UC Davis School of Medicine.  Can you tell us a little about the unique opportunities that brought you here to the UCDSOM?  First, I was UC trained.  I went to Rush Medical School in Chicago and then completed my general surgery and vascular surgery training at UCLA. My first job was at UCSD and then I eventually returned to UCLA where I was the division chief of vascular surgery and the first woman faculty member in surgery at both UCSD and UCLA. So I’m actually originally from the UC system, so it was nice to come back. I had been a chair for 11 years and I wanted to do something different, expand my horizons and learn something new. 

You have received many awards and have been described as a trailblazer (the first woman to serve as surgeon-in-chief at Johns Hopkins and also the first female chair of the Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons).  What career accomplishment are you most proud of? When I left Hopkins, where I was chair of surgery, my faculty actually said that my greatest strength was that I made them better and that I always had their back.  They even made a video that said I made them feel better about how they were and what they were going to accomplish.  That was my charge – to change the culture – and sometimes when you do that you don’t end up with a good feeling at the end, so the fact that I was able to change the culture and have people feel better about it was probably my best accomplishment.  And at the same time I was raising a seven year old, so the fact that he is in college and thinks that I am great that’s added benefit!  He actually wrote a great editorial that I just published in JAMA Surgery on mother’s day called Wearing Different Hats. It is his personal statement for college which is actually great for women to read. The fact that we were able to raise him along the way successfully along with being accomplished with running the department I think was the best. 

That leads into my next question for you… what advice do you have for maintaining work-life balance? I think you have to decide what you want to have your life look like and spend some time actually looking at how you spend your time.  Do you want kids? Do you want to participate with them in school? Do you want to be the coach of their basketball team or would you prefer not to? Sometimes you get caught up and before you know it days, weeks, months and even years go by and there you are.  I think you need to decide what you want to do, how much time you want to do it.  Then really craft your calendar so that you have time so you are not caught in conflicts where you are trying to do two things at once because you will constantly be disappointed.  Now sometimes you can’t because you get busy at work and some things are not negotiable, but a lot of times you can craft your time. And take vacations with your family!  My son tells me those are his fondest memories are the vacations we took and the time we spent.  Also make sure you reflect and talk to your partner to make sure they are having the right experience as well.

The percentage of women who ascend to medical school leadership is still very low.  As of 2010 only 13% of deans at medical schools were women – far lower than the percentage of university presidents (23%) and law school deans (20%). What are challenges women leaders faces in this traditionally male-dominated leadership position?  What can be done to improve retention and career advancement for early career women scientists and clinicians in academic medicine?  One reason is maybe that there are not that many women that have been chairs or have been chairs long enough that they can go onto becoming deans. When I was chair of surgery I was only the sixth woman chair of surgery ever in the United States and now I think we are up to about twelve or thirteen women.  The other would be that women do not see themselves in those roles for whatever reasons – that could be anywhere from not having enough time or enough sponsorship where people put your name in.  I think society is slowly coming around to acknowledge that style leadership can be very different – actually the way women lead tends to bit a bit more by consensus, a little bit more by group – which used to be thought of as a sign of weakness, but now is actually the style that people prefer in most businesses.  I think that actually starting very young and telling women that these are things you can accomplish.  You don’t have to desire it for years and years, but recognize that as you gain more experience that you can go be a dean or a president or something because you do have the experience.  The other thing I say is that if you want things to change, you can’t change them from below.  You really have to change them from the top, so it actually does give you great opportunity to change things from the top down.

Developing on-site childcare has been a long-standing challenge on the Sacramento campus.  Do you see any opportunities in the near future to achieving this goal?  It is on my list and we are relooking at this reoccurring issue. There is one site child care at Davis and so we need one here for parity.  I used one in Milwaukee when my son was small at 11 weeks I had him in this wonderful baby care and he stayed until he was three and it was wonderful and right on site, which was great.  So it really is a priority for us to do it!

WIMHS thanks Dean Freischlag for taking the time to meet with us and we remind you to register for the WIMHS Fall Event us on Septemeber 28th to meet the dean and other health system leaders  for or hors d’oeuvres, networking, socializing and getting to know each other better outside of the work environment!




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Balancing Career and Motherhood

Posted by mbauman on February 3rd, 2014 in Uncategorized | 1 comment »

Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode.

- President Barack Obama, January 28, 2014

While women continue to face many challenges in balancing their careers with motherhood, here at UC Davis there are numerous examples of successful women physicians and scientists who are mothers as well.  Earlier this month Women in Medicine and Health Science (WIMHS) organized a luncheon on “Balancing Your Academic Career and Motherhood” to address the challenges facing working mothers here at the UC Davis School of Medicine.  The event was open to all women faculty, residents and postdoctoral fellows (note that WIMHS hosted an event last year on balancing fatherhood and career, so the motherhood lunch event was more focused on issues for our women faculty members).

WIMHS Balancing Motherhood PanelAmparo Villablanca, MDLydia Howell, MDChristine Wu Nordahl, PhDSally Ozonoff, PhDMelissa Bauman, PhD

WIMHS Balancing Motherhood Panel
Amparo Villablanca, MD
Lydia Howell, MD
Christine Wu Nordahl, PhD
Sally Ozonoff, PhD
Melissa Bauman, PhD

WIMHS Co-directors Drs. Villablanca and Howell provided an overview of the progress made in flexible career policies at UCDSOM, highlighting recent findings from their NIH-funded study designed to raise awareness of existing policies and reduce barriers to their use.  Handouts were provided describing maternity leave policies for postdoctoral fellows, residents and faculty – these will also be made available on the WIMHS home page.  Other resources include a list of recommended books: Motherhood, The Elephant in the Laboratory (Monosson), Academic Motherhood (Ward and Wolf-Wendel), Mama PhD (Evans and Grant), Do Babies Matter (Mason, Wolfinger, Goulden) and This Won’t Hurt a Bit (Au).

The panel, moderated by Dr. Amparo Villablanca, consisted of women who have diverse experiences balancing motherhood with their academic careers. The panelists described their own strategies for balancing motherhood with their careers, including tips, advice and strategies that worked for their families.  Some of the suggestions included, creating a family calendar to keep track of busy schedules, hiring help for day care, household chores, drivers for shuttling kids to after school events.  Several panelists and audience members pointed out that work/life balance isn’t something we should expect to achieve each and every day. Some days require more focus on career (grant deadlines or on call duties) while other days require more focus on children (sick days) – it is important to set realistic expectations of ourselves and maintain a sense of humor!

Sally Ozonoff reflected on the challenges of balancing career with younger children:

“It is hard to not feel like you are missing out on field trips and class room activities when you are a working mother.  As my children got older, I began to see that there were also benefits of having a mother who is passionate about her career. My daughters really want to have both careers and families and seem confident that this is possible.  Now, I feel like I have been a good role model.

As the luncheon wrapped up, Dr. Villablanca posed the question, “Are there things that our school should do to better support faculty moms and parents?”  Time ran short, but onsite day care, more flexibility for grant-funded faculty and making the “stop the clock” policy automatic (rather than requiring the women to request this from her department chair) were raised by several audience members.  Let’s continue our discussion here… what other tips you would like to share?  Are there specific questions we did not get a chance to answer?  Is anyone interested in reestablishing the Mommy and Me play group? What else can we do to support working mothers in science and medicine?  Please post your thoughts below (note that you can post as anonymous if you prefer!).

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  • S Dieterich

    Thank you for hosting this event; I hope it will be repeated as the discussions continue.

    Finding good daycare with flexible hours that can accomodate academic career schedules is probably one of the biggest challenges. On-campus or near-campus daycare options for UCDMC faculty would go a long way toward supporting work-life balance and academic success for parents on our faculty (fathers and mothers both). In the more short term, it would be nice to have a venue to connect with other UCDMC parents in an online group. E.g. it would be nice to know other faculty parents to organize nany shares.

Current Research Funding: Implications for Women’s Careers

Posted by mbauman on November 22nd, 2013 in Uncategorized | 1 comment »

2013 has been a difficult year for those of us dependent on NIH funding. Dr. Sally Rockey, NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research, summarizes the dismal funding climate in her recent blog posting, “After 10 years of essentially flat budgets eroded by the effects of inflation, and now precipitously worsened by the impact of sequestration (an automatic, across-the-board 5.5% cut in NIH support), NIH’s purchasing power has been cut by almost 25% compared to a decade ago.” That was September.  One month later the federal government shut down further derailed the NIH’s extramural program.  Review meetings were cancelled, resulting in a back log of grant applications and even more uncertainty.

NIH’s FY2014 outlook is bleak and UC Davis will certainly continue to feel the impact. According to Dr. Lars Berglund, Director of the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center, “It is readily apparent that we are facing serious national challenges with regard to garnering sufficient resources to advance biomedical research. Public awareness of the value and importance of research is essential. Virtually every institution in the U.S. faces a critical need to establish infrastructure to support communication of research findings and advances broadly.”


While the low pay lines at NIH equally impact both men and women grant applicants, the long term consequences of the current funding climate may be particularly detrimental to women’s careers. The most recent data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) (2011-2012) documents an ongoing but modest increase in women medical school faculty from 29% in 2001 to 37% currently. However, women remain underrepresented at all ranks, particularly at the level of full professor and leadership positions.  The AAMC data also indicate that women faculty are more likely than their male counterparts to hold non-tenured “soft money” positions, and are therefore presumably more vulnerable to the current funding climate.  Current data from UC Davis School of Medicine broken down by series and gender (shown below) are consistent with these national trends:


How might the current funding climate impact the gains we have seen in the number of women faculty in academic medicine here? At the UC Davis School of Medicine (UCDSOM) 35% of our faculty are women (slightly lower than the national average).  In recent years, a growing number research-intensive faculty recruited at UCDSOM have been appointed in one of two non-tenure track series:  Adjunct and In Residence.  Faculty in these series depend almost entirely on extramural funding to pay for their own salaries and fund their research programs. In Residence is generally viewed as the more secure option, as it includes membership in the academic senate and requires a longer notification period for non-reappointment or reduction in salary when grant support is lost.  Faculty in the Adjunct series have one-year appointments contingent upon adequate grant support and are not members of the academic senate.  Although there are nearly equal numbers of men and women in the series must vulnerable funding series (adjunct), there are more men than women by a ratio of approximately 2.5 to 1 in the more secure series (in residence and regular).

What is being done to bolster funding and prevent the loss of research faculty? Earlier this year, the AAMC’s Group on Women in Medicine and Science (GWIMS) representatives initiated a conversation regarding how different institutions are addressing support for research-intensive faculty tracks in the current funding climate. For most institutions, the issue is currently being handled at the departmental level resulting in a wide range of responses.  Some departments are providing bridge funding, or organizing salary support for current or additional teaching activities for their grant funded faculty. Other departments have explored shifting research-track appointments from 12 month to 9 month calendars or negotiating reduced effort for faculty. Many NIH-funded faculty members have simply received a letter of “involuntary reduction in effort” from their department chairs in anticipation of a salary shortfall.  This undoubtedly complex issue will continue to be a major concern for everyone competing for NIH-funding, but especially for faculty dependent on grants to fund their own salaries.  What is your department doing to address this issue?  Is it working?  What else would you like to see UC Davis doing to support research track faculty?

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  • Christine Nordahl

    Thank you for posting this. As a fellow adjunct faculty member, it is good to know that I am not alone in my current struggles with extramural funding. I am optimistic that the university recognizes this as a problem and is taking steps towards finding a solution. Let’s keep the dialogue going!

WIMHS Fall 2013 Welcome

Posted by mbauman on September 17th, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

On Sunday our Women in Medicine and Health Sciences (WIMHS) program hosted the annual Fall Welcome Reception for new faculty. WIMHS Co-director, Lydia Howell, welcomed a large group of new and returning female faculty members and highlighted recent and upcoming WIMHS activities. We were also joined by Drs. Thomas Nesbitt, Heather Young, David Acosta and James Goodnight demonstrating a strong commitment of UCDMC leadership to supporting women’s careers in academic medicine. Check out the pictures from the event below!

 “The Fall Welcome reception is a wonderful opportunity for women faculty in our Schools of Medicine and Nursing to come together to welcome new women to our schools,  network, celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and meet and greet each other in an informal and relaxed setting. It is one of our best attended events and a great way to kick off for the year!” -  WIMHS Co-Director Amparo Villablanca

To further strengthen WIMHS connections we have spent the past year developing two avenues of social media that allow us to reach out to faculty members who may not be able to attend WIMHS events in person.

FACEBOOK:  Lydia Howell does an amazing job of providing up to date access to interesting articles related to women’s careers in health science and highlighting the accomplishments of our female faculty.  Our Facebook page reaches hundreds of individuals each week, and many of the posting go “viral”. If you are not already on Facebook, it is worth joining just to see what Lydia posts next! Check out her post today on our new vice chancellor/dean Dr. Julie Freischlag…

BLOG: This post marks the one year anniversary of our WIMHS blog.  Although relatively new, our WIMHS blog also receives several hundred hits with each post.  We appreciate your interest and encourage you to continue reading along with us and post comments as well! If you would like to participate as a guest blogger of have a suggested topic, please email WIMHS Faculty Mentee, Melissa Bauman mdbauman@ucdavis.edu

UPCOMING EVENTS:  WIMHS will be offering several events this fall, so mark your calendars!

October 21, 2013 - Fall WIMHS/AMWA Reception  Come meet our women medical students and support them as they start their careers in medicine! 4:00 – 6:00 pm  MIND Institute Auditorium, 2825 50th Street,  Sacramento, CA  95817. Register Online.

November 1, 2013 – Book Club  WIMHS, Office of Student and Resident Diversity, and BettyIreneMooreSchool of Nursing Book Club Event   - “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”  12:00 – 1:00 pm (bring your own lunch),  Education Building Room 1204, 4610 X Street, Sacramento, CA. No registration required.

December 2013 - Balancing Motherhood and Career.  Date and Time TBA

We look forward to seeing you at these upcoming events.  Enjoy the pictures from some of the lovely ladies at our WIMHS Fall Welcome!

photo (8) photo (7) photo (6) photo (5) photo (4) photo (3)

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The Importance of Mentoring Junior Faculty

Posted by mbauman on June 12th, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Recent Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) data reports a surprisingly high rate of attrition (43%) for first-time assistant professors in academic medicine.  Attrition rates have been consistently higher for women and minorities in each of the 10-year cohorts tracked by the AAMC from 1981 to 1997.  A lack of mentorship is often cited as one of the primary reasons junior faculty leave academic medicine.


Dr. Marc Drezner and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin Madison Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (UW ICTR) have developed a formal training program for mentoring junior faculty in clinical and translational research careers.  Co-Investigator and Senior Associate Director of the UW ICTR, Dr. Chris Sorkness (right), presented the findings from this program at our April WIMHS co-sponsored seminar “How to Use Multidimensional Mentoring to Ensure Success and Resilience in Research”.

UC Davis was one of 16 schools that participated in an NIH-funded randomized trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the mentorship training curriculum.  Mentors participating in the program were senior faculty members and their mentees included both postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty members.  Mentors that participated in the training demonstrated a significant increase in quantitative measures of mentoring competency and 87% described the complete 8-hour training as a valuable use of their time.  Outcome measures also included qualitative descriptions of the mentorship training experience from senior faculty:

 ”The training has helped me to understand that being a good mentor is not only about thriving in the science at any cost, but rather nurturing the growth of my mentees and understanding what they expect from this relationship and help them achieve it.” – Associate Professor, Yale University

Dr. Julie Schweitzer (left) Associate Director, UC Davis CTSC Mentored Clinical Research Training Program summarizes the importance of mentorship at UC Davis:

“As the PI for the UC Davis site I was very pleased that UCD and our CTSC contributed to the multi-site NIH randomized trial assessing the effects of mentor training on mentor-mentee relationships and performance. Traditionally, mentoring in academic medicine has not explicitly taught, let alone evaluated, what are the best practices for mentoring our scholars. The data from this trial demonstrate that mentor training, or as I like to think of it, sharing of best practices for mentoring, works.  Dr. Judy Turgeon and I, along with colleagues, are now in the process of implementing and modifying the curriculum from the multi-site study for the UCD schools of health sciences. Over 60 of our faculty have participated in the workshops we began to roll out this year with the revised curriculum.

An important part of our curriculum was devoted to discussions of mentoring women. The challenges faced by the mentors and the scholars were illuminating, but also revealed that we have a long way to go in how we can help female scholars be more successful in academic medicine. A frequent concern was the lack of women in senior roles who could serve as mentors and role models. We expect that that the mentoring workshops and the MentoringAcademy will contribute to addressing these issues as male and female faculty have genuine discussions and suggestions for how they can improve their mentoring practices so that we may see more women achieve success in academic medicine, here at UC Davis.”

Have you received adequate mentorship training?

If not, what resources would you like to see at UC Davis?

How can we encourage senior faculty to participate in mentorship training?

You can download the UW ICTR curriculum for mentor training for clinical and translational researchers at: https://mentoringresources.ictr.wisc.edu/

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Women’s History Month Recap

Posted by mbauman on April 2nd, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Did you know that March was Women’s History Month?  I celebrate the history of women every fall  during the course I co-teach as a freshman seminar to UC Davis undergraduates called “Women in Science”.  The goal of the class is to provide students interested in careers in science and medicine with an understanding of accomplishments of women in STEM fields, as well as an awareness of the challenges that women have faced.

We begin the class by highlighting accomplishments of women in science and medicine from a historical perspective and ask the students to prepare a presentation on a historical figure, exploring in more detail her professional accomplishments, support system and challenges faced in her career.  These presentations are one of my favorite aspects of the class, as the students invest a great deal of time and effort into researching the lives of these women. Several themes emerge from our discussion of historical women in science and medicine:


~ These women had to overcome major challenges in order to carve out a career in heavily male-dominated fields.  One of the women we discuss is neurobiologist, Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini (left photo), who passed away last December at the age of 103.  She was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for her discovery of a growth factor essential to the survival of nerve cells, having faced numerous challenges establishing a career as a Jewish female scientist.  Here’s a link to the New York Times article published shortly after her death or you can enter her name on Facebook to learn more (at last count she had well over 250,000 “likes”!):  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/31/science/dr-rita-levi-montalcini-a-revolutionary-in-the-study-of-the-brain-dies-at-103.html

~ We have, within a relatively short period of time, moved beyond the days of overt gender discrimination.  The young women in our class find it hard to believe that in their grandmother’s generations many women were still actively discouraged from careers in science and medicine.  The story of Rosalind Franklin (right photo)and her contributions to our understanding of the structure of DNA always results in a lively discussion and I highly recommend the book “Rosalind Franklin – The Dark Lady of DNA” by Brenda Maddox: http://www.npr.org/programs/atc/features/2002/oct/darklady/

~ There is still room for improvement!  One of our goals from this class is to equip the next generation of women in science and medicine with an understanding of challenges they may face and tools to overcome these obstacles.  Last month the gender gap in science was the topic of a special issue of the journal Nature.  This is a must read for anyone in academic medicine – pass it along!  http://www.nature.com/news/specials/women/index.html

Check out the reading list compiled by The Scientista Foundation celebrating women in STEM related fields:  http://www.scientistafoundation.com/lifestyle.html  We would love to hear from you if there are other historical figures or books celebrating women’s careers to include in our discussion.  Post a comment below – and Happy Women’s History Month!

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Dress Up in Red for Our Hearts in February

Posted by avillablanca on February 22nd, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Amparo Villablanca, MD & Adele Zhang, MFA

New Picture

“Tins of Love” designed by David Lee.

Cardiovascular disease kills more women in the United States than all cancers combined and every minute, a woman in the United States dies of heart disease. February, National Heart Month, is a time when we reflect on the toll heart disease takes and what we can do to increase awareness and prevention.  Since all women are at risk, yet younger women may view themselves as immune, the UC Davis Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program, Directed by Amparo C. Villablanca, MD, entered into a unique partnership with the Dpt of Design at UC Davis in 2010 to take the national symbol for raising awareness of heart disease in women, the red dress, and expand its reach to provide a call for early  prevention to all women, including young women.

From a fashion design course to the heart health cause, students majoring in Fashion at the UC Davis Department of Design took on their responsibilities of designers to promote the Red Dress as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness.  In partnership with the Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program and under the mentorship of Adele Zhang, the students have created more than twenty red dresses for raising awareness that heart disease is the leading killer of women by campaigning at the UC Davis Women’s Heart Care Education and Awareness Forum for Community Leaders, the UC Davis Picnic Day fashion show, and displaying their work in the Mondavi Center.

When talking about fashion, we make natural links to the glamour on runway reviews, red carpet events or vogue trends.  How can red dresses be interpreted into the campaign messages for a health subject?  Throughout human history, as witnesses to cultural beliefs and rituals, what people wear is supreme among the material arts.  The most important occasions, from births and deaths to weddings and festivals, are moments when particular textiles are expected to be worn or carried for identities or ceremonial meaning.  Design is human centered.  In particular, apparel design invites attention and engagement, attempting to celebrate the human it complements.

At the UC Davis Department of Design and for the Red Dress project, design is introduced in a broader range to explore how style, technology, and social issues relate to design.  Among design elements, color is the prominent one utilized by designers.  According to Henry Dreyfus, an American legendary designer, it is popularly felt that red, the color of blood and fire, represents life and vitality.  Red also signifies the color of the sun: a symbol of energy, radiating its vitalizing life force into human beings.

The students use red dresses as a metaphor to develop a vivid visual presentation that goes beyond the design object itself.  The red dresses take a humanity approach in tandem with the personal interpretation about heart health by the students, creating a more emotional and interactive process for the viewer.  Charlotte Pong, one of the young designers in 2012, created a dress entitled “Fragile Life” inspired by butterflies.  She took this design project into action not only in the studio, but also to the reality.  She interviewed people around her and had them sign 100 origami hearts, later stitched into a train for her red dress to pledge for heart disease prevention.  As she stated, “Butterflies are able to travel hundreds of miles in order to migrate but can fall to the ground in the blink of an eye.  After all, your heart is simply a small fluttering butterfly locked within your chest.”

Designers use their products to communicate and make ideas tangible.  From the choices of the materials to the silhouettes and fabrication, every detail surrounds the color red in the dresses and represents a story from the young designer’s heart, such as a cupcake liner embellished skirt that reminds people for healthier eating habits (Tins of Love, by David Lee,), piped dress seams that mimic the intricate network of blood vessels  (Afflicted Solace, by Minh-Chau Nguyen), computer-programmed lights that emulate a healthy heart beat (Heart Working, by Nidia Trajo), and hand-dyed linen and gauze in rough textures with broken threads that signify a physically broken heart (Heartbreak, by Faye Lessler).  When these ordinary objects that can be found around us are elaborated through the design process, the thoughtfully developed ideas make them into a heartfelt sensation, which makes the UC Davis Red Dress Collection exceptionally unique, alive and persuasive.  

Many of the students started this project with little knowledge of heart disease and only a few had a strong connection with the notion of family ties on this issue. Yet, through education they all reached the same destination of using their dresses to advocate the hearth health message through research and creativity.  As Ellen Griesemer pointed out in her design statement (Thread as a Metaphor), “…this project encouraged me to get informed and share my realization through design.”  We wear clothing everyday to create our own identities.  To wear dresses in red is a sociable linkage to every woman to remind us that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women.

So, let’s dress up in red for our hearts this February for heart month and remind ourselves that heart disease does not care what you wear, it is the leading killer for women, yet largely preventable through the adoption of healthy lifestyles.  By coming together as women in our medicine and science community we can celebrate our health and be part of this unique effort to utilize design for heart health education and awareness.

Amparo Villablanca is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Adele Zhang is Design Faculty, Design Museum Curator, and design mentor of the Red Dress Collection

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Balancing Elder and Family Care and a Faculty Career

Posted by mbauman on January 28th, 2013 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Mother and daughterDid you know that 86% of women over age 50 think that they may need to use family-friendly policies?  Are you one of these women?  While many family friendly policies are used by young women for child-bearing or child-rearing, there is a growing need to provide support for family care responsibilities involving the other end of the lifespan – our aging parents.  A recent NIH-funded study of UCDHS faculty UC Davis study led by your colleagues Amparo Villablanca and Lydia Howell has found that 43% of UCDMC faculty members report family care responsibilities that are not related to child care.

“My daughters are grown, but my need to provide care to my family continues,” says Lydia Howell.  “My father is very disabled with Parkinson disease and dementia, and my mother is the primary caregiver.  I’m not nearby to help, so I fly to visit them almost once a month.   The more I talk to my faculty colleagues, I realize that there are many like me – trying to balance career obligations and find time to support loved ones both near and far.  This is a national dilemma, and hardest on women since women are traditionally the caregivers in our culture.” 

WIMHS recently hosted a lunch workshop “Balancing Elder and Family Care and a Faculty Career: Work-Life Integration is Not Just About Childcare” in order to explore these unique issues and to provide an opportunity to develop support systems among faculty colleagues.  The panel discussion facilitated by Amparo Villablanca, M.D. included several faculty members who shared their experiences and insights from caring for aging parents.

Esther Lara, who serves as a Clinical Social Worker and Research Administrator at the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center, was also on the panel.  She provided the following specific suggestions for individuals caring for their parents:

  • Address legal issues (power of attorney, advance care directives etc.) with your family members ahead of time.  The ARAG legal insurance offered to UC employees can often be helpful in these efforts.
  • Develop a support system.  In addition to siblings, friends and family, there are many other resources available.  See the links below to locate certified senior care advisors, in-home health and companion care, or simply help with housekeeping and other domestic duties.
  • Take care of yourself too.  Make time to continue the activities that you enjoy, so that you can balance care for your parents with your own needs.

As one attendee put it, “there seem to be as many solutions as there are problems”, but the spirited and honest discussion made it clear that the attendees appreciated the opportunity to connect and share with others experiencing similar dilemmas.   The group wants to meet again, and WIMHS will be working with Faculty Development to create quarterly workshops and faculty support groups to address specific elder care related issues.

What do you think — are you experiencing work-life challenges related to elder care?  Do you have advice to share, questions to pose, or ideas for future workshops or meetings?  Post a comment below to help us shape our activities on this important topic…


Select Plus (formerly Sittercity) – The cost of membership is paid by the University of California and is completely free to you. You pay only for the services of the caregivers your hire. Activate your membership:



Eldercare Locater – A public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging connecting you to services for older adults and their families:



National Institute on Aging – Provides a wide variety of research-based information and resources related to health and aging:



National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers-Can make home visit suggest needed services and help get the services:



You can find more information about what is covered by Medicare Part A, B, and D:



Medicaid, also known as Medi-Cal in California, is a combined Federal and State program for low-income people and families.  Medical will pay the cost of some types of long-term care for some people and their families. You must meet certain financial requirements.



The U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may provide long-term care for some veterans.  Services could have a waiting list for VA nursing homes.  The VA also provides some at-home care:



For information on older drivers, how to start a conversation and how to analyze an driver safety:






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