Priscilla Alfaro, MD ’89, remembers how, as a new graduate from McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, she relied on an informal network of friends to help her start her career as a female physician.
“We face unique challenges as women in medicine,” says Alfaro, a pediatrician and Chief Medical Officer at a health technology company. “Keeping people close who I could rely on made a big difference.”
A new alumni organization at McGovern Medical School, called Women in Medicine, aims to provide a more robust, structured support system for the school’s female students and alumni. The group began with the McGovern Medical School Alumni Association, where members recognized a need for a forum where women could share their knowledge and experience.
“It’s especially important for those of us who are further on in our careers to share our personal experiences with issues like families and the work/life balance,” says Alfaro, President of the McGovern Medical School Alumni Association. She serves on the executive committee for Women in Medicine alongside Melanie Collins, MD ’91, who led the Alumni Association prior to Alfaro’s term.
“There can be some impediments along the way to being a female physician,” says Collins. “Lack of role models in leadership positions is huge.”
While female physicians can face a wide range of challenges—from choosing specialties to maintaining personal wellness—Collins and Alfaro identify family life as perhaps the most central. With raising children traditionally delegated mostly to women, female physicians may struggle to balance competing priorities— a reality even in families that try to split childrearing duties more evenly.
“We need to let others know the different ways you can continue to practice medicine even when having a family is important to you as well,” Collins says. As an increasing number of women pursue careers as physicians, Alfaro hopes Women in Medicine will continue to grow as a source of information and support.
“We want it to be a safe environment where we can share our experiences and learn from each other,” says Alfaro. “That’s the goal, and I think it’s exciting that we’re doing this.”