Tragically Hip, "Ahead By a Century"
The late Dr. Emily Stowe, Canada’s first female practising physician and the second ever licensed in the country, was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2018.
Her family accepted her award with the Tragically Hip’s treasured song "Ahead By a Century" playing in the background. The entire event audience rose to their feet for a prolonged and exuberant standing ovation.
One has to wonder if such a recognition and spontaneous response could have happened at any other time in history. 2018 was the year of the Time’s Up movement and when the #MeToo movement gained significant momentum.
For women and those specifically in professions largely dominated by men and where a legacy of male leadership is the norm, these two movements were welcomed, serving as an inspiration and invitation to women and their allies to become more vocal about needed change on systemic issues related to gender equity and diversity.
They also served as a call to women to consider developing new support systems within their cohorts, to seek out new opportunities for mentorship and to create safe spaces for women to discuss systemic issues, brainstorm solutions and in the process strengthen their resolve and support of one another.
With the two movements occupying the sound waves, social media platforms and discussions from lecture halls to boardrooms, Adrina Zhong, Medicine Class of 2021, was experiencing her first year of medical school.
The summer months provided her with a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect on her first year experiences as a medical student, and also explore more literature focused on the #MeToo movement, as well as other issues such as gender equity in medicine, the pay gap for women, leadership, harassment and work life balance. With a desire to delve more deeply into these issues, engage her peers and create and make change, she decided to create the Women in Medicine student group at the School.
“I am part of the Windsor Campus and the gender split with our class here isn’t 50/50,” said Zhong. “As we are a smaller class, it’s more obvious, and initially it was jarring to see how male dominated it was. This really motivated me and my female classmates to build stronger bonds with one another and was part of the inspiration to the founding of the Group.”
The Women in Medicine student group was approved that fall and it didn’t take long for Zhong to engage others to get involved.
Classmate Bojana Radan, Medicine Class of 2021, was eager to partner with Zhong as co-chair. Radan who is based at the London campus was already involved in women’s health issues, serving as the local officer for sexual and reproductive health, and saw this as a natural extension of her work and an opportunity to explore her interests.
The Group was launched with 55 active members, and has grown to having an online following of 100 individuals in less than one academic year.
Their mandate is to create a safe space and a community for female classmates and allies to discuss systemic issues of gender diversity and inclusivity that affect women, to brainstorm solutions and to raise awareness about the issues in the broader School community.
Radan says that the group is currently comprised of only women, because some spaces need to be women centric, so that skills can be built, mentorship can flourish and open conversation can occur. They have had some of their male classmates attend sessions, which is very welcome.
“If you haven’t experienced specific challenges, then it’s hard to understand some of the things we are calling attention to,” said Radan. “One of our goals is to have our male allies understand the lived experience of women and how that affects their learning experience, and will affect their medical practice and future.”
During the past academic year, the Group has held discussion sessions; lunchtime talks with speakers addressing work-life balance, leadership and pay equity; an event event where students engaged with female physicians from a variety of specializations; and hosted informational booths including one on International Women’s Day.
The Group’s mission is well aligned to the School’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Cultural Statement, which positions that the School is committed to providing a welcoming and accommodating environment for all, and recognizes that diversity is a source of strength which promotes a culture of excellence, innovation, flexibility and adaptability that thrives based on the contribution of all its members.
The Group also supports the School’s focus on female learners and faculty as an area for attention in regards to diversity, equity, inclusion and cultural safety.
Zhong and Radan both feel exceptionally privileged to be in medical school and have enjoyed their first two years at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry.
Firmly committed to advancing the mandate of the Group, they are looking forward to the next few years at the School and the continued growth and reach of the Group. Standing on the shoulders of the brave women who have come before them, they look forward to making change for their generation and those who follow.