How a physician-mother shapes the future of medicine

This week is Physicians Week, and this is one in a series of interviews with members of the physician community that are bringing a variety of ideas and networks together in order to improve the relationships between physicians and between physicians and their patients.

Dr. Hala Sabry is the founder of a physician social media group, that started with 20 people that has grown in two years to over 65,000 women physicians (who are also parents) of all specialties who graduated medical school.

How did your physician mothers support group get started?

Just a little over two years ago I realized I was going to have three kids under the age of 18 months, and I work full-time, so I started to get overwhelmed combining the logistics of managing my personal life and that of my clinical work as a physician. I reflected on the many other social support groups of working mothers, and I didn’t understand why we physicians were an exception. It was taboo to ask for help as if that would be admitting you are not a strong enough physician and can’t possibly care for others if you haven’t figured out how to care for your family. In reality, this is quite the opposite in that physicians prioritize patient care ahead of their own needs. So when I made the group for some personal support, it just spread like wildfire as others had been tabling their same feelings and stress with this dual role.

Are you surprised at the amount of people who have joined this group?

Definitely. When I first made it I thought, I’m probably gonna get shot down, but I was so desperate for a core group of women physician friends who were mothers that I was willing to try anything. But the fact that the 20 people — who I handpicked, people I felt like I could have those conversations 1-on-1, I thought they would accept me. But the fact that they knew other people they knew 1-on-1 that would probably benefit from this and just the fact there were other people out there like me, initially I think I just cried happy tears because I was so surprised and relieved. Now it’s not so surprising to me, and I’m actually just so happy this has empowered so many different people to make their own groups based on their own niches.

What would you say the main goals of the group are?

The group has grown, but we still are loyal to our initial three goals. One, we want to be that resource for women socially. It is really hard to be a doctor and turn off that switch and also be a member of society that’s outside of medicine including the numerous roles you hold at home. So to give women physician that social support is important.

Our second goal is professional support. Especially as women, there aren’t a lot of mentors that look like us. My mentors used to be all men. Now I’ve gained a lot of female mentors through the online group. To be able to have that courage to step out and have that vulnerability with another female physician is important for professional growth. So professionally speaking, I think that’s really helpful.

Lastly, we uphold an educational goal. It is so natural to talk about medicine with other physicians. It is refreshing to discuss current guidelines and treatments of diseases. We are a multi-specialty group with extremely accomplished women physicians, and the intellectual discussions are more helpful than a lot of traditional CME exercises!

Your group started as a Facebook group — what do you think about social media as a means to connect with everyone?

One of the really nice aspects about social media is that it really can fill voids we have in our life. We dedicate our lives to medicine, and when we do that, we are sacrificing so much in our personal lives. You may not have an outlet, and you can harbor frustrations with work and how it intersects with your personal life. When you find your tribe on social media, they fill that void, and it actually makes you more emotionally available to people in your personal life and not necessarily in the medical field including friends, spouses/partners, and your children. I think it has really enhanced everyone’s lives and I’m excited to see future advances in medicine because of it.

Is there a group goal as far as what your organization would like to do in terms of improving the support that is provided for the physicians for this group?

I think our overall goal as far as our platform is that we want to be a resource for our other physicians. I often say that physicians are the most underserved community out there because nobody serves them. We’re so busy serving everybody else because of our job description and personalities.

We want to make sure that we take the time to nourish ourselves and continue to support women physicians. My goal is that the women in high school and college who are looking up to us are inspired and will continue on this path we are paving for them. I hope that the barriers that confront us currently are broken down or nonexistent in the future. Because ultimately, those women looking up to us are going to be OUR doctors, and I’m excited to be able to help shape the future of medicine with our group of 66,000 women physicians.

Hala Sabry is an emergency physician and founder, Physician Moms Group.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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