Two Women Physicians Find Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship

Two Women Physicians Find Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship

Joshi is a physician and entrepreneur.

The life of a physician is fraught with setbacks and struggles. For women who enter medicine, it’s even more cumbersome. Nearly every woman in medicine must deal with the burden of proof — that she’s earned her title and position along the way from medical school to independent clinical practice. It brings to mind the common saying that women must work twice as hard to get half as far. But those who relay the quote, originally from Canadian feminist Charlotte Whitton, often miss the second refrain:

« Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult. »

For two women physician entrepreneurs I spoke with — Leah Houston, MD, and Brittany Busse, MD — they’ve proven Whitton’s words to be both true and prescient, but they also highlighted some of the challenges along the way.

Houston, the founder of HPEC (Humanitarian Physicians Empowerment Community), has revolutionized the way physicians collaborate and network. HPEC is a decentralized autonomous organization of practicing physicians who control how their credentials are used by health facilities and healthcare delivery systems. It’s a digital exchange, somewhat like a closed social media platform, that allows physicians to validate their clinical training and accomplishments while providing professional support and development. By bringing together doctors from different specialties and locations, HPEC breaks down barriers and fosters a sense of community among physicians who prioritize autonomy.

Houston’s professional success, as remarkable as it has been, comes at a personal cost that continues to nag at her:

« I think if I had taken more time in my earlier years to think critically about the importance of this, and the need to make the right decisions in my personal life in order to actualize on my family dreams, I would have had an opportunity to experience traditional motherhood, which is something that’s important to me. »

Busse has had a similar experience of weighing professional success and personal setbacks against one another. In a short time span, Busse made significant strides in the field of telemedicine, most notably with her company ViTel Health. As the co-founder, president, and chief medical officer of ViTel Health, Busse has been at the forefront of developing processes and technology specific to telemedicine. With over 6 years of experience in executive physician leadership roles, she knows how to make meaningful connections between disparate ideas and systems. Her dedication to improving access to healthcare through telemedicine has positively impacted countless patients who can now receive medical care from the comfort of their homes.

But early in her medical career, she was judged more for her physical appear than her mental acumen:

« A woman attending on the internal medicine rounds downgraded my performance because she felt I was dressed ‘unprofessionally’. Every day I would come to work in nice slacks and a button up shirt. She felt the button up shirt was too revealing because she could see my breasts through the gaps in between the buttons. »

Unfortunately, such typecasting is not unique to Busse. It’s something many women entering medicine face and continue to endure in their clinical training. Busse reminisces on an awkward moment she endured during her surgical rotation:

« The male attendings were discussing the fact that they felt women ‘made terrible surgeons’ because we are too focused on our home lives, prefer to be part-time, and don’t take the profession seriously. »

What sets these women apart is not just their ability to navigate the intricacies of the medical field, but also their entrepreneurial spirit. They have recognized that by embracing entrepreneurship, they can create opportunities for themselves while also advocating for the needs of their fellow physicians. Their success is a testament to the power of ingenuity and determination. But perhaps more importantly, their resiliency is a testament to the fact that a dedicated female physician can accomplish as much as any male physician. As Houston puts it:

« If there’s a problem that you see in medicine, and if you see a solution that you believe you can execute on, consider it, but do not pursue it unless it’s a problem and a solution that you think about every waking moment of your life, because that’s what entrepreneurship requires. »

In a field where women are still underrepresented in leadership positions, the entrepreneurial endeavors of Houston and Busse are a shining light. They have defied expectations and shattered glass ceilings, showing that women physicians are fully capable of excelling in healthcare innovation.

As healthcare continues to evolve through innovation, it’s crucial to support and uplift women physicians who are breaking barriers and pushing boundaries. By recognizing and celebrating their achievements, we pave the way for future generations of women physicians to thrive in the world of healthcare innovation.

The stories of Houston and Busse serve as powerful reminders of the resilience and ingenuity of women physicians. Through their entrepreneurial endeavors, they have not only empowered themselves but also paved the way for others to follow. As we strive for a more equitable and inclusive future in medicine, it is essential that we amplify the voices of women physicians and support their pursuit of entrepreneurship. As Busse explains:

« Women entrepreneurs also need to step out of their competitive and scarcity mindsets that have been programmed into us since we were little girls. If we don’t help each other, no one else will. »

Jay K. Joshi, MD, is a practicing physician and entrepreneur in Northwest Indiana. His book, Burden of Pain, identifies opioid health policies that can bridge the divide between the legal and clinical worlds. He regularly blogs on his site, Daily Remedy.

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