"At the end [of my talk], I really wanted to focus on how Specialty Networks could partner with us," says Jannah H. Thompson, MD, FPMRS.
On April 13-15, 2023, Specialty Networks held its spring 2023 national conference in Boston, Massachusetts. In this interview, Jannah H. Thompson, MD, FPMRS, summarizes key takeaways from the presentation, “Engage the Future Urology Workforce: How to Partner with Society of Women in Urology (SWIU),” which was given on April 15 at the conference. Thompson, a urologist with Urologic Consultants in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is past president of SWIU.
Please provide a summary of the Specialty Networks 2023 National Conference talk “Engage the Future Urology Workforce.”
I think the main reason they asked me to come and give this talk is they really see that the number of women in urology is increasing every year. 81% of women that applied matched in the urology match this year, and that number continues to increase. Membership within SWIU continues to increase as well; we're at approximately 1500 members. I think the main reason they reached out to is because if you look at the number of women, and where they end up, most women in urology are less than 45, compared to our male counterparts, and most of them do fellowships when compared to our male counterparts. And then about 66% of women end up staying in academics or hospital employment vs 44% of men. Retention into private practice really is quite low, compared to other things, and I think there are a number of reasons for that. One, I think most doctors in general—not just urologists—are tending toward hospital or academic employment in general. But I also think it's lack of exposure at the residency level to private practice: what it looks like, what the benefits are. There's a lot to be said for keeping your autonomy, and there's a lot to be said to being able to steer the ship with your practice and not have to get bogged down in the bureaucracy of administration, when you're talking about making day-to-day decisions for your patients. [Because of that] lack of exposure, I think if people are looking at private practice, it just looks like a big thing to bite off; they don't know how to code, they don't know the business part of private practice. It seems overwhelming.
And then I think there's the culture piece. There are women in academia. When you see someone that looks like yourself, then it feels like a more comfortable place to be. [During the talk, I] discussed our mission, and then I just broke down for them what we've been doing, whether it's on professional development; our annual clinical mentoring conference, where most of our didactic is all professional development content; [as well as] a speaker database that we provide to members with the idea of helping more women get on panels. When people are asking SWIU, who are some women that are experts in the field, or we need a woman that can talk about this topic, now we have a database that we can go to and share. That's an added benefit to members.
We also have a monthly webinar series that we're starting this year. [With these, we're] trying to do 2 things: capture women to be involved with our organization if they can't come to the yearly winter meeting, and to continue to offer content that either reinforces or expands on topics we discussed or topics that we just didn't have time for at our meeting. I think the first one is about looking at your inner critic. We have one on how to, within the academic process, move from assistant professor to associate professor to full professorship. We've had webinars on how to be a good reviewer because we want more women to sign up to be reviewers of journals. We've [covered] retirement savings.
Another big aspect is our research. We've been involved in research in a number of ways. We have a research award that we give out to a female who's doing research in the urology field. This could either be a PhD or an MD. That is given out every year and has a dollar amount to it. We also offer poster and podium presentations for residents and fellows at our annual meeting. This allows them a time to be given constructive feedback on their presentation before they do it at the [American Urological Association Annual Meeting]. We have resident travel awards, where people can donate money to send a resident to our meeting. Each section actually has donated money to have that, as well as individuals.
Our newest venture that we're really excited about is our affiliation with the gold journal. We were allowed to select 2 editors to take care of the “Women in Urology” section that now is our section to publish articles on gender equity. SWIU members Casey Seideman, MD, and Gina Badalato, MD, are the editors. To help them with that, we have developed a task force with the purpose of marketing that to our members so they know about this affiliation, what it's about, doing webinars on how to be a good reviewer so we can get more women to sign up, as well as webinars on publishing. Dr. Seideman did one on how to write an article for publication. Within that task force, we have a subgroup that's looking at data over time to see, has the institution of this section then promoted more women to be published? We have a lot of stuff on mentorship, whether it's our speed mentoring that we do at our conference, longitudinal mentor-mentee dyads that we set up through an application process. We also have a webinar that's coming up on how to be a good mentor.
We've created these short-term, goal-oriented task forces that are yearly working groups, again, with the goal of getting more women in our organization involved to do some of this grassroots work on things like gender equity, salary equity, getting women the resources and education they need to get published or to be more active in academia. Last year, one of the task forces looked at industry partnership with the goal of teaching women what opportunities are there to partner with industry, whether you're looking at research or consulting. And then if you're interested in that, how would you go about developing that relationship? And so they did a number of interviews of industry partners, as well as female urologists who have interacted with industry, and they are getting ready to present that data through a webinar. We had a task force that did a census of our membership covering everything from how do you get paid to what are you paid to what are some of the challenges or barriers that you have? The publication for that is being worked on currently.
At the end [of my talk], I really wanted to focus on how Specialty Networks could partner with us, because that was one of the other goals of this presentation. I told them about the job board on our website; if they have an opening, they could post that there. They have access to the speaker database so if they need a speaker for one of their meetings or a panel that somebody's putting together, they can request that. I encouraged them to consider sponsoring one of their private practice women to come to our meetings because we need more private practices women, we need that voice.
When our organization started in 1985, it was about 5 women. We just completed our 12th annual mentoring conference. For several years, there weren't really enough women or resources to do that. But once we started developing our yearly annual mentoring course, we started out with didactics, that we'd say, "Okay, this year, it's going to be on bladder cancer. And we'll bring in all the women who are experts on bladder cancer, and they're going to speak on various topics." But what we found is that the conversations that were happening in the hallway or in between the sessions were really the reason why women were coming to our meeting. It wasn't for the didactic piece; they can get at other meetings. What they've come to our meeting for, is to say, "You look like me, and you're in private practice," or, "You look like me, and you're the head of oncology at your organization." It was really about seeing themselves, meeting other women across the country, and being able to discuss, what is your practice like? How did you do this? How are you doing work-life balance? And so around 2019, we flipped the script on our mentoring conference, and we stopped doing the science didactic, and really just made all of our content on professional development and personal development —just the topics that need to be talked about. For instance, this year, we had a whole panel that discussed infertility and how to freeze eggs, because so many women postpone starting their family because of training, and then they get to an age where they can't have children. To see the women in the audience who are struggling with this now have somebody to go to to talk to who's been through the process, it was really just phenomenal. Those are the types of things that make us different. It's really about being able to interact with women who have to balance their work, as well as the responsibilities at home. How can we forge forward in terms of getting published more? How can we become the chairman? How can we become the program director, when there aren't as many women ahead of us to see ourselves in that role.
[Also], we're still behind on awards, recognition, salary. There are a number of things that we still have to work to try and get to an equal level, for various reasons. Those discussions that happen really help us problem solve; they invigorate you to go back to your organization and keep working at some of these challenges, or have a fresh view on how to go about that. That's really what the conference is about. So I encouraged them to really consider sending a private practice woman, because we need that voice. We need other women to see that that's an option. How do you forge a position where you might be the only female in your private practice? In getting more private practice women there, my hope is that we would have that representation at the board level, which has been something we've been very conscious of. And even though I'm stepping down, there is another private practice woman on the board. I also encouraged them to come to our AUA session, which this year is on allyship. We actually have a man from the University of Michigan, who's going to be speaking on the power of male allyship. I also set the stage for potentially having a SWIU meeting at LUGPA and a SWIU meeting at Specialty Networks so that women that are there could come and connect and then connect with the organization as well. It would probably be more of a social, informal event.