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Strong support from chief helped female surgeons

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2004 - Spring


I read with interest the article on the growing number of women in surgery [“Closing the Gender Gap,” Winter 2004] and was pleased that Barbara Kinder mentioned William Collins as one of those who strongly supported women in the surgery program. As the first woman resident in neurosurgery at Yale (and the third to be board-certified in the country), I was fortunate that Dr. Collins literally “took a chance” and accepted me on the resident staff. I recall early in my residency when the chairman of one of the major neurosurgery departments in the country said to Dr. Collins (in a voice calculated to reach me), “Bill, I thought you came here to build a first-rate program. How do you expect to do that after you bring a woman on staff?” Dr. Collins’ support was invaluable not only during residency and when I was a faculty member, but later in my career as well. Thanks, Barbara, for remembering.

I would also like to echo Dr. Kinder’s reservations about the reduction in resident duty hours. As one who attended a medical school in New York with a county hospital affiliation, I know it was not necessarily the fatigue of house staff that caused the errors that aroused the concern of legislators, but the inability to get senior staff to respond to night call. For example, in my third-year obstetrics rotation I delivered more than 30 babies, and I was “taught” to do pudendal blocks (among other things, like breaking a clavicle for a shoulder dystocia) by the night nurse. I agree with Dr. Kinder that the diffusion of responsibility that occurs with the shortened hours is a significant negative. And perhaps more importantly, it will do little to solve the problem.

Joan Venes, M.D., HS ’67
Sacramento, Calif.

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