Rights in Peril

I am 59 years young and a recently retired physician. I decided that I wanted to be a physician when I was a very young child. Unfortunately, when I reached high school, I was a social pariah because I favored science. I spent all of high school hanging out with the “guys” and did learn how to play football.

When I went to college, in 1971, spaces for medical school were difficult to obtain and women were not really welcome. Very few women were prepared to defy the norm; most of my women friends went into the nursing program. I went into premed and did very well. Competition for med school was so great that students would steal other students’ lab books just so that their competitor would get a worse grade, but, interestingly, that didn’t happen between the sexes: Women were still a part of affirmative action in medical school. I was never in competition with my male colleagues.

The women in my med school class actually had better grades and test scores than the men but all we heard was that women shouldn’t get the advantage of a medical education since we would all just get married, have children, stay home, and waste all of the state money spent on our education. I went through stuff that young women now don’t believe could happen to them, including having pictures of nude women mixed into anatomy class lectures, and surgeons verbally abusing me.

Having spent 17 years as a physician at UCSB, I am frightened at the fact that young women assume that their right to equality is a given. The things we fought and suffered for are in peril.

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