Women in Medicine: Allison Bean
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Posted by: AAP Staff
Allison Bean, MD, PhD is a PGY-4 and Chief Resident in PM&R at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She has been an AAP member since 2016 and is now the Chair of the Resident/Fellow Council (RFC) and an Editor for AJPM&R’s new Resident and Fellow Section. Allison is currently applying to Sports Medicine Fellowships, and plans to pursue a career in academic medicine combining clinical practice with research investigating novel approaches for musculoskeletal regenerative medicine. Learn more about her career – in her words!
I majored in bioengineering in college and worked in a lab where I got really excited about musculoskeletal tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. I also realized that I wanted to interact directly with those patients I was trying to help with my research. This led me to pursue a combined MD/PhD program at the University of Pittsburgh. Early in my PhD training, I worked in the lab with a physiatrist visiting from Brazil who introduced me to the specialty. While doing my dissertation research, I spent some time in clinic with amazing sports and spine physiatrists, and it was an easy decision after that! PM&R is the perfect specialty to combine my research interests and my desire for variety. The creativity that is often needed to solve the unique problems of our patients appeals strongly to the engineer in me. I can’t imagine choosing a different specialty.
The AAP has played an incredibly important role in my early career development. My involvement with the RFC has been a game changer. I have gotten to know the leaders in academic physiatry, many of whom I now consider mentors. I’ve also met trainees from around the country, and several are now my closest friends. I have had the opportunity to sit on various AAP committees, which has allowed me to see how medical societies can influence the trajectory of a specialty. And last but not least, the AAP’s RMSTP has helped me prepare for the transition from trainee to full-fledged clinician-scientist.
Great strides have been made in supporting women in medical training, as evidenced by the fact that more women are now enrolling in medical school than men. On the other hand, as I begin to prepare for the transition from trainee to faculty, I have found myself increasingly concerned about the persistent disparities that women face as they attempt to move up the academic ladder. While 41% of physiatrists are women, less than 30% of full professors and 15% of chairs are women. Women in medicine also continue to be underrepresented in society leadership and are less likely to receive awards and plenary speaker invitations—honors that frequently play a role in promotion committee decisions. These statistics are certainly daunting to me, but I am extremely optimistic. If men and women in leadership positions continue to acknowledge these disparities and work to ensure equal representation, these barriers can be eliminated. I hope that academic physiatry will lead the way!
Women trainees, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone! Place yourself in challenging situations and believe that you deserve to be there. As women, we sometimes talk ourselves out of asking for things or taking on leadership roles because we think we are unqualified or undeserving. The more you practice asking “why not me?” the easier it gets - and you will be surprised how far it will take you! Also, look for mentors and sponsors who will help you achieve your goals. There is nothing more valuable than having someone in your corner to give advice, ideas or simply be a cheerleader!
I encourage all trainees to submit articles to the new Resident and Fellow Section of the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AJPM&R)! The Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Walter Frontera, has created an incredible opportunity for in-training physiatrists to publish short articles. Data shows that women are underrepresented in journal publications, so let’s bridge the gap. The call for papers will be open very soon, so keep your eyes peeled and start preparing your manuscripts.