News & Press: Member Highlights

Women in Medicine: Keneshia Kirksey

Thursday, September 27, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: AAP Staff
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Keneshia Kirksey, MD is the Residency Program Director, an Associate Professor and Medical Director of the Spinal Cord Injury inpatient program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). An AAP member since 2013, she has a special interest in resident education and spinal cord injury and spinal disorders. She is a co-investigator for the UAB Spinal Cord Injury Model System and a collaborator on several ongoing research projects. Throughout her career, Keneshia has received 7 teaching or leadership awards. Learn more about her career – in her words!

I knew that I wanted to become a physician at a very young age. My plan was to become a “baby doctor." After completing my pediatrics rotation, I was not so sure. My brother, who is also a physiatrist, encouraged me to explore the field of physiatry. I was apprehensive initially, but I am so glad I took his advice. I rotated for 2 months in pediatric and adult PM&R as a 4th year medical student and immediately knew that PM&R was it. PM&R has been the perfect specialty for me and I love what I do! Serving as Residency Program Director and having the opportunity to teach residents and medical students is the most rewarding and gratifying accomplishment in my career.

The AAP has contributed to the success of my career immensely. I was honored to be selected to participate in the Program for Academic Leadership (PAL) from 2014-2017. This experience was an invaluable opportunity to be mentored by senior academicians and other leaders in the field. PAL has enhanced my leadership skills and provided a better understanding of how academic institutions function on a research, administrative and education level. The mentoring, support and endless resources I’ve also received through the AAP’s Residency Program Directors Council has been extremely useful. Because of my active involvement, I have been given the opportunity to participate on various committees and be a part of change.

Women in Medicine Month is an important initiative because women bring a lot to the table. We bring diversity and new innovative ideas. Yet I am sometimes mistaken for "that nurse." Even while wearing a white coat and introducing myself as doctor, patients still assume I'm a nurse. There also remains a gap in female advancement into leadership positions in academic medicine. We sometimes have to work harder at finding a seat at the table, having a voice and being heard. Finally, lack of quality mentorship for female physicians is a barrier I have faced along with gender equity and pay equity in medicine.

As women we must promote ourselves. Know your worth and advocate for yourselves and others. Not only is it imperative to be a role model and mentor for other young physicians, but we must explore opportunities to mentor and engage young women in our communities. Do not limit yourself! You have more leverage than you think, even early in your career. Research your salary and compensation, and do not be afraid to negotiate. I encourage you to understand the promotion process early in your career. After residency and fellowship, continue to seek professional development opportunities. Attend your national meetings and get involved. Find mentors, sponsors and coaches to assist with development of your career path. Most importantly, aim for work-life balance as much as possible and take care of yourselves both physically and mentally!