Letters to the Editor: It isn't just racism. Gender discrimination thrives in medicine

·2 min read
West Memphis, Ark. - Dentist Michelle Freire-Troxel, from left, cleans the teeth of Amari Harris, while Dental Assistant, Chyna Miller, takes notes at the East Arkansas Family Health Center in West Memphis, Ark. on Friday March 6, 2019. CREDIT: William DeShazer
A reader says gender discrimination was rampant in dentistry when she was training to become an oral surgeon. Above, a dentist cleans a patient's teeth. (William DeShazer / For The Times)

To the editor: Dr. Pauline W. Chen, a surgeon, says that she is discriminated against in her field because she is Asian. Based on my experience, I think a potentially huge component of how she has been treated is gender. For women from minority groups, discrimination may well be worse than it is for white women.

I am a white woman. I attended UCLA dental school in the late 1970s. At that time, less than 3% of all dentists were women. I wanted to go into oral surgery, but I was told that women were not taken into the surgery specialty.

I endured daily remarks. When I entered the operatory, patients would often ask when the doctor was coming. When I took over the practice of a retiring older white male, many people left or told me they were not convinced a woman could do the job.

Surgery specialties tend to still be dominated by males. My daughter, who is in a six-year oral and maxillofacial surgery residency, is often mistakenly identified as a nurse or assistant as she stands alongside her male colleagues.

Gender discrimination remains rampant in our society. I thought I was going to be the change generation, but I am hopeful that my daughter will see the end of this.

Susan Fredericks-Ploussard, Woodland Hills

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To the editor: In reading Dr. Chen's article, I was reminded of an incident that occurred several years ago as I was being prepped for a surgical procedure at a Los Angeles area hospital.

I was wheeled into the operating room and the nurse started the initial steps for the procedure. When one of the physicians arrived in the room, I heard the nurse greet him by mocking his Asian name. I was both stunned and embarrassed by the nurse's unprofessional behavior.

I couldn't help but wonder how often this highly trained physician had been subjected to similar comments.

Thomas Batsis, Sun Valley

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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