Five years ago, the MU School of Medicine’s interim dean, Les Hall, sent Richelle Koopman, MD, to a women’s faculty development conference hosted by the Association of American Medical Colleges. It was a very productive conference.
After attending a workshop on how to start or energize a women’s faculty group, Koopman returned to Missouri and did just that, creating a robust organization called Women in Medicine and Medical Sciences (WIMMS).
“That conference had a waterfall effect,” said Koopman, the director of research in the Department of Family Medicine and the Jack M. and Winifred S. Colwill endowed professor in Family Medicine. “Support for that kind of faculty development can really pay dividends.”
Koopman served as the WIMMS chair for four years before Alisa Hayes, MD, took over for a two-year term beginning this year. Hayes said the group’s functions have had healthy turnouts of 75 to 100 participants from a pool of 200-plus total women faculty at the School of Medicine.
The WIMMS mission statement — “To advance the full and successful participation and inclusion of MU women in all roles within academic medicine” — covers a lot of ground.
The group aims to provide support and networking, which is particularly helpful to women in male-dominated departments. WIMMS’ Caroline McGill Society holds quarterly meetings at local restaurants to discuss pertinent books, articles, films or podcasts.
WIMMS provides practical advice at its annual faculty development meeting on topics such as how to prepare for promotions and advocate for yourself and others. Last year’s meeting included a “life hacks” fair, which showcased the services of local women-owned businesses that could help faculty save time or maintain a healthy personal/professional balance.
Lastly, WIMMS is an agent for change. Among the organization’s action items: adopting a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, ending the School of Medicine’s gender pay gap by 2021 and committing to hiring more women for leadership positions.
“We’re trying to tackle big issues, and we’re doing it with people who already have achieved some things in their career, so they might feel a little safer in doing that,” Koopman said.
Aside from Hayes and Koopman, the WIMMS’ executive council includes Kristina Aldridge, PhD; Talissa Altes, MD; Sue Boren, PhD; Kimberly Brandt, DO; Carla Dyer, MD; Karen Edison, MD; Elizabeth Garrett, MD; Virginia Huxley, PhD; Leila Kheirandish-Gozal, MD; Maike Krenz, MD; Elizabeth Malm-Buatsi, MD; Susan McKarns, PhD; Susan C. Nagel, PhD; Elizabeth Parks, PhD; Tomoko Tanaka, MD; Amy S. Williams, MD; and Laine Young-Walker, MD.
“We are committed to ensuring the MU School of Medicine is a welcoming and productive home for our women faculty,” said Patrick Delafontaine, the Hugh E. and Sarah D. Stephenson Dean of the School of Medicine. “We applaud the work of the WIMMS group to support this cause.”