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!