“You can have your cake and eat it too,” Dr. Haffizulla, AMWA National President, advised Yale and Quinnipiac medical students this past Friday evening, referring to the false dichotomy of having a successful medical career and a caring family. She believes that female physicians too often feel that they have to choose between work and family. Instead, Dr. Haffizulla suggests that if you are organized, passionate, and a strong self-advocate, you can do both.
This past Friday, Feb 7th, students of the Yale medical community had the opportunity to share an informal dinner with Dr. Haffizulla, the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) National President. This intimate event provided an informal setting for current Yale and Quinnipiac medical students to pick Dr. Haffizulla’s brain about female leadership in medicine. Students’ concerns varied from gender discrepancies in pay to opportunities for advancement to balancing family and medicine.
As an independent practitioner, national leader, and mother of four, Dr. Haffizulla was able to provide her own experience and advice on these topics. Regarding to gender inequity in medicine, Dr. Haffizulla emphasized that we are not alone in this battle to increase female and minority representation in leadership.
She emphasized the importance of national organizations such as AMWA and its local chapters to help communicate and advocate for issues relevant for women in the medical profession. On a national scale, she highlighted AMWA’s goals to increase the transparency of large medical organizations so people could readily access gender and salary breakdowns of different leadership positions. In addition, she highlighted the agenda to increase funding for research for differential treatment and disease pathology for women.
In addition, Dr. Haffizulla highlighted the importance of making alliances with other medical groups, as well as larger umbrella organizations. On a micro level, she encouraged students to reach out to potential mentors, saying that female mentors in her life had a tremendous impact on her. She believes that it was through these relationships that she developed the skills necessary to be an effective advocate for change.
While discussing work life balance, admitted that it can be very difficult. Dr. Haffizulla told her own personal challenges of being pregnant in both medical school and residency, fighting off pre-labor contractions while seeing patients in the ICU. However, through perseverance and a little “Indian fire” (Dr. Haffizulla is Trinidadian), she was able to succeed in both school and motherhood beautifully. Dr. Haffizulla advocated for the right of every physician to start a family when they so choose, and pushes for structural changes to make these decisions possible. For example, she believes an expansion of Yale’s daycare for faculty and students would be a step in the right direction.
Throughout the discussion, Dr. Haffizulla highlighted the importance of self-advocacy, finding the right fit professionally, and taking active steps to achieve it. Her passion was infectious, and her speech gave Yale’s newly formed AMWA chapter the push it needed to begin in earnest.