“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Last week all over the news were reflections on the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I have to admit that I didn’t know much about Ruth Bader Ginsburg until my adult years. Just like many Americans, the first time I really got introduced to RBG was with her #NotoriousRBG. One part of me wonders why she did not make it into the history lessons when I was in grade school. The other part me of recognizes the world that I was born into and the continued fight for women rights. If we know our history and our HERstory, we become stronger.
Just a few months ago, during the first part of the COVID pandemic, my sister and I watched the movie “On the Basis of Sex” which was inspired by the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There I watched a woman who was at the top of her class be put down on several occasions for being a woman and intellect. She had many saving graces from her supportive husband to her being led to a career in academia. Her life literally led her to the Supreme Court. She started as one of the few women in law during her time who later opened the door for many more women to follow in her footsteps.
One of these women was a patient of mine. She was a clerk for RBG. I remember talking to her about how amazing that had to be. She told me about how even though Ginsburg was in her 80s she still was dedicated to her work. My patient, in her mid-twenties, would tell me how she and Ginsburg would be up late at night working on cases. It was hard for my patient to keep up even though she was decades younger than her boss. But what she learned was the power of passion and purpose. Even though I did not know Justice Ginsburg personally, I have learned the same from her as well.
Women in White Coats is our version of opening the doors for future women doctors to come through. Our goal has always been to infuse a supportive environment for women doctors. In the field of medicine, we have grown in many ways over the years and now have close to half our medical school classes around the country being filled with women. However, the culture of medicine is still slow to change. It is still a field where it is looked down upon when a woman takes maternity leave. It’s still a field that does not value work life balance. It’s a field where we have unequal pay for doing the exact same job as our male colleagues. These things make the culture of medicine toxic at times. But this week especially I have looked at this time in medicine as an opportunity like RBG did when she was one of the few female law students. I look at medicine now like RBG did when she fought for equal pay and rights for women when it wasn’t the norm. As women doctors, we need to be dedicated to changing the culture of medicine to be more favorable to the many roles that women hold. It is a daunting task, but WE CAN DO IT. We can do this TOGETHER. Justice Ginsburg has shown us that we can…but we have to be steady and take steps over time. We have to be strategic. We have to be measured.
Dr. Amber Robins is a board-certified family medicine doctor practicing in Washington, DC, and graduate of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She is a recent Health and Media fellow graduate from Georgetown University and PBS News Hour. She is the author and founder of “The Chronicles of Women in White Coats” and “The Write Prescription: Finding the ‘Right’ Spiritual Dosage to Overcome Any Obstacle” with her own website and blog at www.AmberRobinsMD.com.