Celebrating Women in White Coats: Q&A with a Family Medicine Physician
Sep 28, 2021 | Hospital Solutions
September is National Women in Medicine Month #WIMMonth, as declared by the American Medical Association. We'd like to take a moment to recognize female physicians in medicine by sharing a Physician Spotlight, originally posted to the Doximity Blog.
We interviewed Amber Robins, MD, faculty family medicine physician at Rochester Regional Health and Associate Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Read the questions below to get a better sense of what doctors are doing on Doximity as well as to hear Dr. Robins' experience as an African American female physician.
Doximity's Physician Spotlight is an interview series highlighting prominent members of the Doximity network. Each interview sheds light on the unique challenges physicians face in medicine today and how Doximity’s tools and technology are helping doctors solve these issues.
Q: How did you originally find out about Doximity?
A: I found out about Doximity while I was a resident. And during that time, it was a good way to connect with other residents, residency programs, and if you're looking for a job, Doximity is a great place to go to be able to network. So it was not only a way for me to connect with my colleagues, but also connect with future employers as well.
Q: What do you enjoy most about the Doximity network?
A: I really enjoy the fact that I can get news directly from the app. So whether it be looking at stories that were curated specifically for women physicians, or even if it's a random pop-up that comes on my newsfeed from colleagues who are engaging on a certain article, it's always helpful and interesting to see the news and research that pertains to me and then connect with other physicians on these important issues in medicine.
Q: How is Doximity different from other online networks?
A: Doximity is much more private. A lot of us (physicians) may use social media, like Facebook or Instagram, but that's really for use for the general public. What’s nice about Doximity is that you know every member has been verified as a real physician. And just by knowing this, it gives the network more credibility and enables physicians to have open, honest clinical conversations. So it's a good way to know that you're confidently interacting with someone who is your colleague.
Q: What has your experience been with telemedicine?
A: I believe telemedicine is absolutely here to stay. I don't think that it's going to be going anywhere anytime soon. I think we'll only be developing more ways to communicate with patients.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue a career in medicine, specifically family medicine?
A: I believe family medicine actually chose me. I was just four years old when I first became interested in becoming a physician. And at that time, my dad was in and out of the hospital because of some issues with his spinal cord. And so for a period of time, we would only see doctors. At that time, I didn't necessarily know about a family medicine doctor. I knew about neurosurgeons and PM&R doctors who manage rehabilitation, but I didn't know anything about family medicine until I got to medical school. And it was during my education that I realized how important family dynamics are when it comes to our health. For my family, we were able to help my dad literally get back on his feet and be able to walk again after four or five years of being in and out of the hospital. So in family medicine, we look into our communities. We look into the family unit. And we support our patients in so many ways, from when they're first born, and sometimes even before they're pregnant, all the way to when they are older. So it's really been an honor to be a family medicine doctor, and kind of fun too. I feel like I’m part of my patient's family.
Q: How did COVID-19 impact your practice, both in the short-term and long-term?
A: COVID-19 was, and constantly is, something that changes the way that we practice and actually see medicine. It wasn't until COVID that I felt unsafe to go into work. And that was a very uncomfortable experience for me. Just like many other doctors, we would have to swab patients to see if they were COVID positive or not. We had to really be able to discuss some scary things with patients, even though we didn't necessarily know exactly what was going on in regards to COVID and what it was.
The pandemic actually led to me changing jobs. I went into telemedicine, doing that part-time instead of going into the clinic. I knew that there were risks that I could also subject on my family just by being exposed to my patients on a regular basis. So it led to many changes, but it also led to me understanding that medicine in itself is very dynamic. A lot of things we learned in medical school were not necessarily emphasized as much as needed, such as public health. COVID has changed the way that I view medicine in a positive way. I’m always looking for what may be new, looking at the system of medicine as a whole rather than one piece, and also looking at how we can better take care of our patients in addition to taking better care of ourselves as physicians.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Women in White Coats?
A: Yes! Women in White Coats is my passion project and is continuing to evolve. Women in White Coats is a lifestyle brand that helps inspire and uplift women in medicine at all different stages– whether you're in medical school, or you've been in practice for years, our growing community is there to be your support. We offer different programs such as coaching and conferences, and we also offer great resources through our blog. On our blog, you’ll hear from the voices of women in medicine. So, if you have an opinion, which we all do in medicine, that is the place to be.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face as a physician?
A: There are many things that I didn't know about being a physician until I was actually a physician. I'm a first generation physician in my family and I didn't know much about what to do on the wards, or how to take care of patients without taking on all of the burdens and all of the hardships they go through. So for me, the way that I have been able to navigate through this is really by connecting with other women, especially through a book project called the Chronicles of Women in White Coats, which we talk about our lived experiences as physicians. As a primary care doctor, I know I deal with a lot of paperwork, more than I would have thought. I also deal with imposter syndrome. Once I graduated from medical school, I started thinking, “maybe I shouldn’t be here.” This feeling was compounded by being an African American doctor, one of the few in the country.
I knew I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. I turned my fear into action and wanted to be able to help others get into medicine, especially those who are minorities, and those who are women. I always tell people to reach out to mentors who can help. Having someone to guide you through the challenges of working in medicine has been very valuable to me. My mentors have helped guide me in several ways, like trying to figure out what my career path is and understanding that I have a gift for media. They are the ones who actually told me to go to ABC News for a one month rotation, where I was in the medical unit, reporting to national news. My mentors have literally helped guide me in understanding my career and without them, I really don't know if I would have picked up on so many gifts that I have which I thought were normal in medicine.