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Blog | Feb 03, 2022 | Video

Leading the Charge to Raise Up Women Primary Care Physicians

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By agilon health staff

Every year on February 3, National Women Physicians Day celebrates and honors women doctors across the U.S. while raising awareness about the specific challenges they face in the healthcare system. This year, the nature of those challenges is clearer than ever.

As just one example: A new report published in Health Affairs finds that there’s a 25% lifetime pay gap between male and female physicians in the U.S., which adds up to a difference of slightly more than $2 million over a 40-year practice—regardless of physicians’ specialties, hours worked or similar factors—and that the gap has persisted despite female med-school students now outnumbering men.

Fortunately, just as evident as the hurdles female doctors face are the opportunities to create greater inclusion for them, especially in the primary care sector—and several female PCPs aligned with agilon health are helping to spearhead that critical movement to change the status quo starting with the formation of The Female Physician Leadership Council.

Led by medical leaders who are an essential part of transforming the healthcare delivery system, the Council will focus on developing female leadership within the agilon practice network and the next generation of women PCPs to deliver value-based care within their communities to help the most vulnerable of patients – our seniors.

Perhaps the best reason to strive for greater gender parity in primary care is the benefits it delivers to patients. External data from respected outlets, such as The Lancet and JAMA, suggests that female physicians deliver better patient outcomes, including lower readmission and mortality rates. Female PCPs also deliver better value through lower medical loss ratio (MLR) compared to male PCPs. Investing in female PCPs is not just the right thing to do—it’s the smart thing to do.

In celebration of National Women Physicians Day, we asked the founding members of agilon health Female Physician Leadership Council to talk about the challenges and opportunities facing female primary care physicians today, their best advice for the next generation of female primary care physicians and what makes them most optimistic about the future of female physicians in primary care practice.

Their responses captured below and in this video are practical, enlightening, and optimistic about the potential today and the promise of tomorrow:


Physicians Group of Southeastern Ohio, Zanesville, Ohio

Dr. Amanda Williams

Q: Why are you excited to be part of agilon health’s Women Physician Leaders in Value-Based Care Initiative?

A: I am incredibly excited about being part of this initiative for many reasons. One is, females are highly underrepresented in the medical field. They represent only 3 percent of healthcare CMOs, 6 percent of department chairs and 9 percent of division chiefs… I’m a mom of a 3-year-old little girl and she already is telling me she wants to be a mommy doctor when she grows up; I’d like to believe by being a part of this female physician leadership group that we are paving the way for the future.

Q: What do you believe are the top challenges and opportunties facing female primary care physicians today?

A: One is implicit and explicit bias. As a female physician, I can have a male medical student rotating with me and we walk into a room and the patient will look at the male medical student and address him as “doctor” and me as his nurse.

There’s also burnout. Unfortunately, 40 percent of female physicians go part-time or leave medicine altogether within six years of completion of their residency.

I think the opportunities lie in educating and making others even aware of these things. I think we kind of have our blinders on sometimes and don’t even realize these topics and things are happening.

Q: Why is it so important that more female physicians assume leadership roles within their practice?

A: I love the saying, “If you can’t see me, you can’t be me.” And if we don’t have more female leaders, then we’re not going to allow other female physicians or aspiring female physicians to know that they can be that leader as well.

Q: What is the top piece of advice that you would give to the next generation of female physicians considering primary care?

A: You can do this. You got this. It’s hard; it’s hard to be a physician, period—but I won’t lie, it’s extra hard as a female physician. But we need you, we need you on those front lines and hopefully right now we’re going to help pave the way and make it a little bit better for you.


Central Ohio Primary Care, Westerville, Ohio

Dr. Kristin Oaks

Q: Why do you believe value-based care is the path forward in primary care medicine, particularly for women physicians?

A: One of the things that I think value-based care brings for female physicians is this opportunity to really leverage the relationships that we develop with our patients and have the ability to be paid because of that… Female physicians working in value-based care really allows them to connect with patients in a way that I think comes naturally to them, in the way that they do best.

Q: What advice would you give to the next generation of female physicians considering primary care?

A: Ideally, female physicians should choose the specialty that it’s in their heart and not be so concerned about the financial arrangements. But for female physicians who are considering primary care, I think they should really consider working in a value-based care practice. The future of primary care is in value-based care contracts; we can’t look at the past and how primary care physicians have been reimbursed previously because that’s not the future of medicine. The future of medicine is value-based care and in value-based care, primary care physicians do well.


 

Austin Geriatric Specialists, Austin, TX

Dr. Liam Fry

Q: Why are you excited to be part of agilon health Women Physician Leaders in Value-Based Care initiative?

A: I come from a long family of female physicians and I think that the data, as well as the climate in our country right now, really supports us having an opportunity to move women forward for the better of not just ourselves, but our practices—and most importantly, for our patients. We are different from men and I think [we should] highlight where those differences can help patients.

Q: What do you believe are the top challenges and opportunities facing female physicians today?

A: I think we all want to be the best in every area of our life and that is a challenge. How do you balance being the best mom, the best wife, the best sister, and the best physician?

One of the top opportunities for female physicians today, I think, is value-based care. It gives them the opportunity—and perhaps even a specific advantage—in being able to create a better healthcare system where they’re able to spend more time with their patients, do better, effective care, and still have a solid income to support their families.

Q: What is the top piece of advice that you would give to the next generation of female physicians considering primary care?

A: I think the top piece of advice I would give female physicians who are going into primary care is to really focus on taking great care of your patient. That never, ever goes out of style, that never becomes unimportant, that is something that has gotten all of us leaders to where we are. It really comes down to that simple but dedicated task of really focusing on the patient.


Pioneer Physicians Network, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

Dr. Victoria Digennaro

Q: Why are you excited to be part of agilon health’s Women Physician Leadership in Value-Based Care initiative?

A: I’m excited to be part of the initiative because we are actually on the forefront of changing things. Women need a voice and I think this is the time that we can do that and provide better care for people.

Q: What do you believe are the top challenges and opportunities facing female primary care physicians today?

A: I would say the top two come down to the lack of visible leadership out there already as well as the challenge of taking care of your family and finding that work-life balance.

The top opportunity facing female physicians today is the opportunity of value-based care, because it allows you to practice medicine how you would like as well as finding that work-life balance to manage the things in your life.

Q: What is the top piece of advice that you would give to the next generation of female physicians considered primary care?

A: My best piece of advice is to always believe in yourself because you are amazing.

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