Balancing your career

San Diego DO sheds light on the transition from early to mid-career for female physicians

Geneen Gin, DO, is investigating the barriers female physicians face when it comes to career advancement, and how to best support them.


Geneen Gin, DO, has been diligently working to uncover what makes women physicians successful in their careers, what struggles they face and what support is needed at the individual and institutional levels to support their career advancement.

After graduating medical school from Touro University, Dr. Gin completed a family medicine residency at the University of California San Diego, followed by a fellowship in obstetrics at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. Currently, she serves as an associate clinical professor of family medicine at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

Dr. Gin is a co-investigator on “Women physicians in transition: Learning to navigate the pipeline from early to mid-career” funded by the American Medical Association (AMA) Women Physicians Section (WPS)/AMA Foundation Joan F. Giambalvo Fund for the Advancement of Women. The project hypothesized that the identification of important inflection points, such as the transition between early career to mid-career, could contribute important insights to the understanding of how to achieve gender equity in medical careers. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with women physicians in the United States. Two key themes emerged: Women sought resources to help them redistribute home responsibilities to mitigate the demands from a physician career and demands from family needs; and women sought resources to address foundational knowledge gaps about career milestones and how to achieve them. Dr. Gin presented the results at the AMA 2022 Annual Meeting. 

Dr. Gin is also featured in a podcast segment titled “Geneen Gin, DO, on women physicians in training: navigating the pipeline from early to mid-career”, where she discusses the paper in brief. 

Following is an edited Q&A with Dr. Gin. 

What initially motivated you to conduct this research? 

One of my academic interests is faculty development and education. I’m interested in what inspires people to pursue careers in academic medicine, as well as what makes a good faculty member and how we can support people in becoming better faculty members so they progress in their careers.

The main theme that the paper identifies is a “tension resulting from finite time divided between demands from a physician career and demands from family needs.” Can you expand on what this means, particularly for female physicians? 

All the women recruited for the study, whether they were partnered or single or had children, related their work and non-work demands as a balancing act. In order to progress in their careers, they had to have some kind of support system, which varied from person to person. Some mentioned having a very strong family network to help manage responsibilities outside of work, allowing them to devote more time to their careers. Others mentioned that they had to learn to prioritize and outsource tasks such as childcare, household maintenance and grocery delivery in order to maintain balance with their professional lives.  

The focus of our research project eventually evolved from trying to determine best practices for women transitioning from early to mid-career into a broader overview of what this transition means. We hypothesize that many of these ideas are not explicitly unique to women and can, in fact, be applied to any physician undergoing this transition. 

In your opinion, what would be the best way for doctors in training to go about finding a quality mentor?

I don’t believe there is a template or algorithm for how to find a good mentor, but the best mentorship pairings that last the longest and carry the most meaning are ones that develop organically rather than those set up for you by your institution. The best mentors in my life have, in fact, grown with me through my career.

With that said, I have also learned to accept that mentorship is not always forever and that as I advance in my career, I require different mentors to help guide me through each phase. I do not need the same style of mentorship now as I did in residency. It may be that when people think “mentor,” they think of someone who is going to be with you for your whole career, whereas I have found success in fostering unique relationships with new mentors as I take on new challenges. So, mentorship isn’t forever; it evolves as you evolve. 

It was also very interesting to see how social distancing due to COVID fostered a new approach toward mentorship using online forums such as Facebook groups, Instagram and Twitter. With social media, you’re not limited to finding mentors at your institution or in your immediate area, but rather can have a mentor on the other side of the country. Many have found these virtual connections to be an even better fit than traditional mentorships set up by institutions. 

You mention in the Moving Medicine podcast segment that female physicians often do not know how to seek out a promotion. What advice do you have for women struggling with this part of their career development? 

It’s very interesting because at my institution, the standards and criteria necessary to get promoted are very clear and there is a lot of guidance, but many of the physicians I interviewed did not have a similar experience.

Since hearing this, I really try to be mindful of that, and I think this is situation where a mentor who has experience navigating a similar situation can provide valuable guidance. On the other hand, if your institution is looking to promote more women to enhance gender equality, then the onus is on the institution to provide appropriate resources, such as workshops, etc.

From what you have seen and experienced, how does this early to mid-career transition differ between male and female physicians? 

That is exactly what we would like to study more based on the results of this paper. Traditionally, male physicians have fewer caretaking responsibilities and more support at home, though this may be changing. Many of the women interviewed had a physician partner and they still were primarily in charge of picking kids up from school and managing nanny schedules. So, the hypothesis is that because male physicians tend to have less household responsibilities, they would have more time to focus on their careers. 

The paper states that “women physicians in transition may also face family planning challenges and infertility.” Can you expand upon this? 

Yes, I think this pertains to the need to delay childbearing or use assisted reproductive technology and, therefore, it is a broad use of the word “infertility.” There is, of course, a significant time commitment when it comes to childbearing and fertility treatment, which could take away from a woman’s ability to focus on her career. This can be generalized to all physicians by looking at self-care during an early to mid-career transition. Self-care is often not prioritized and, unfortunately, that can include sleeping, exercising, visiting the doctor or dentist, and eating healthy.

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of The DO or the AOA.

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One comment

  1. Katherine A Martin

    I have mainly worked my 42 years in family practice alone except for the military, raised triplets on my own completely with no family support or help. The good ol’ boy system did not allow for female physicians to enter their groups or invite to join so solo practice was the only way to go, especially to have flexibility in my scheduling with 3 children the same age. NO resources. Sometimes I took them to conventions for CME when they were older. When 90% are male, it is easy to dismiss the females or ignore us. Now the numbers are totally different in ratios M/F.
    Good luck with getting corporate medicine to care either. Limited childcare, especially in rural areas takes a tremendous financial toll. Only when male physicians ask similar questions will it truly be equal. Good Luck!

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