By: Polly Rossi, CMP-HC, CMM, HMCC of Meeting Achievements
Have you ever attended an education program, to be appalled that there is still a manel on the agenda? A manel is a panel of all male speakers. There are many reasons why they should no longer be part of any educational program. This post will briefly outline three of those reasons. First, research has shown that panels with more women tend to be more effective and productive than those with fewer women. Second, it sends a message that we do not value the perspective and expertise of women physicians. Third, it is simply not representative of the current landscape in medicine. We desperately need to strive for greater diversity in all aspects of our field and manels are a big step in the wrong direction.
First, there’s been a lot of research on the importance of diversity in groups and panels, and one important finding is that including women tends to make groups more effective and productive. This has been shown time and again in studies across different industries and fields. So it’s not surprising that this trend is also seen in the world of medicine, where having diverse perspectives can lead to better care for patients. In fact, several studies have found that when women are included on medical panels, there is a significant improvement in the quality of discussion and decision-making. So it’s clear that incorporating more women into these important decision-making roles can have a positive impact on patient care.
Second, in a recent study, it was shown that less than one-third of medical conference speakers are women. This lack of diversity sends the message that we do not value the perspective and expertise of women. This is particularly troubling given that women are the majority of healthcare professionals. We must work to change this trend by supporting opportunities for female physicians to share their knowledge and experiences. Only then can we hope to create a more equitable and effective healthcare system.
It’s time to end manels.
Third, In recent years, there has been an increased focus on the lack of diversity in medical school and in the physician workforce. Data from the Association of American Medical Colleges show that only 18 percent of all U.S. physicians are women, and just 6 percent are black or Hispanic. This is not representative of the current landscape in medicine, and it is crucial that we address the issue head-on. The first step is to understand why this disparity exists. There are many factors at play, but one key reason is that there are simply not enough role models for women and minorities to look up to. We need to celebrate manel doctors more so that they can become visible role models for other women and minorities who are interested in a career in medicine.
Women physicians, doctors, and other healthcare professionals have a lot to offer when it comes to discussing medical topics. Yet, time and again, they are shut out of important conversations due to the all-male panel phenomenon. This has to change if we want evidence-based medicine that reflects the diversity of our patients. We urge conference planners and attendees alike to push for more inclusive panels, with women in prominent speaking roles. Only then can we ensure that the best possible care is being delivered to everyone who needs it. Manels need to end. That’s right, I said it. And I don’t mean just for conferences or meetings; I’m talking about getting rid of them from educational programs altogether. You read that correctly, too: not just from medical schools, but from law schools and business schools and engineering programs and every other field where a manel can (and does) occur. Why? Because conferences and meetings are one thing, but when our future doctors, lawyers, and engineers are taught in an environment where women are grossly outnumbered by men, it sends a message that these fields are not for us. That we are not welcome. And that’s simply unacceptable in 2022. The change starts here!
Dr. Ngozi Ezike is the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the first Black woman appointed to lead the 143-year old state agency. During her tenure with IDPH, she has gained recognition as she leads the state through the COVID-19 pandemic, providing televised daily updates and guidance for Illinoisans, and collaborating with businesses, community organizations and healthcare institutions. Under her leadership, Illinois has successfully vaccinated more than 70% of its population, developed rapid- response, in-school COVID-19 testing protocols, and established a voluntary Ambassador program composed of more than 1,200 state residents who take the messages of COVID awareness and good health to their respective communities. Dr. Ezike is the former medical director at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, and a nationally recognized expert in the area of healthcare within the juvenile detention and justice systems. Prior to this, Dr. Ezike worked for Cook County Health (CCH), the hospital and healthcare system addressing the needs of the residents of Cook County, for more than 15 years. In that capacity, she served as the Austin Health Center medical director, where she actively engaged with the community on a variety of health initiatives. She also has delivered inpatient care at Stroger Hospital and primary and preventive care in community and school-based clinics. A board-certified internist and pediatrician, Dr. Ezike is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. She is a Certified Correctional Health Professional and Diplomate of both the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Pediatrics. She is also an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Rush Medical College. She is the recipient of numerous awards including honorary doctorates from Southern Illinois University, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, and Knox College, the University of St. Francis’ Sister Clare of Assisi Award, and the 2020 Excellence in Public Service Award from the Motorola Solutions Foundation. An advocate for maintaining work-life balance, particularly in challenging times, Dr. Ezike is an avid tennis player and reader, and is fluent in Spanish and French.