Women in Medical Leadership Roles: When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do

Posted on Mon, Oct 05, 2015
Women in Medical Leadership Roles: When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do

By Gina Puglisi, MD

I have found myself sitting in a room surrounded by "suits" many times in my leadership career.

The ratio of males to females in my medical school in 1983 was 30 to 1. In my residency I was one of three women among 36 residents. At my last place of employment, I was one of two women in leadership positions for 18 years. As you can imagine, I faced all of the perceived obstacles of "fitting in."

When my mentor, my boss and my dear friend Dr. Neri, told me that he always wears a blue suit during negotiations, I realized that perhaps when I am in Rome I should do what the Romans do.

I bought a host of navy blue suits and made it a point to wear them to important meetings. Although I am very happy and very comfortable in dresses and lace, I felt that I was taken more seriously by the men in the room when they perceived me as blending in. I noticed that I received fewer comments and remarks aimed toward my looks, and the conversation more often stayed professional. There are times that I wear a pantsuit with a tie when I am addressing a large group of male leaders, but since I love my femininity, I make sure that the tie is pink and my ears and neck are bedazzled with bling.

I don't feel like I am "selling out" or trying to "fit in." I don't feel like I'm giving up my true identity. I believe that knowing your audience and having the ability and the confidence to flex, change and adapt allows me to go anywhere and do anything.

Life is a stage and the audience knows who you are by the costume you wear.

P.S.: A note to all men: if you ever find yourself having to face a room full of women, a pink shirt could go a long way.

Gina Puglisi, MD, is a Regional Medical Director and the Medical Director of Mobile Integrated Health in EmCare’s Partners Group division. She completed a Medicine/Pediatric residency at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Paterson, N.J., and is a board- certified Internist with 24 years of emergency medicine, 12 years of urgent care and 10 years of hospitalist experience. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont and went on to complete her medical degree with St. George’s University School of Medicine. Dr. Puglisi has more than 21 years of administrative experience. She is the Vice President and founder of the American Academy of Hospital Chiropractors and co-managed the largest hospital chiropractic department in the United States and Canada. She owns and operates a private practice in Dutchess County, N.Y., which exclusively provides house calls services to 2,000 patients.

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