This week, we’re featuring Dr. Elizabeth Goldberg, an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Brown University to discuss the impact of mentorship and collaboration and the importance of getting involved.

Tell me a little bit about where you are right now in your career, and how you got there.

E Goldberg:       First of all, thank you for doing this interview. AWAEM is very special to me, and has meant a lot to my career. I’m an assistant professor in emergency medicine, and also health services, policy, and practice at Brown University. I’m the attending physician at our pediatric hospital, Hasbro Children’s, as well as two of our adult hospitals; Miriam Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital.

When did you first get involved with AWAEM?

E Goldberg:       I first got involved in AWAEM because multiple faculty members at Brown were involved in AWAEM, and they were looking for someone to help with the didactics for SAEM. I’ve been a friend for a long time with Esther Choo and Neha Raukar. They both thought that that would be an ideal role for me to take on. I’ve learned so much by helping AWAEM with their didactics, and being the chair of didactics, and the VP of education overseeing didactics.

How has AWAEM specifically affected your career?

E Goldberg:       I think it’s really important, as a woman in a field that’s still male dominated, to know that there’s other women like you. Role models that have also had children, that have also had, maybe, the same challenges you’ve had in your career, and have come out of it stronger, more respected, and have created a professional life for themselves that they’re proud of. And so, for me, joining AWAEM let me be close to all these other wonderful women who acted as mentors, both as peer mentors, and as mentors much further along in their career.

E Goldberg:       It also helped me to know, when I went to conferences, where I should participate, what didactics I should go to, what types of things would benefit my career. So it’s been really important to me, professionally, to belong to AWAEM.

Tell me a little bit about your work with the didactics.

E Goldberg:       When I first started working on didactics, I was a co-chair with Neha Raukar. AWAEM is a very collaborative group of women, and we always had a brainstorming session where people would come up with ideas that they might have heard at other conferences, or other de novo ideas, and we would talk about, well, who would be a great speaker for that idea, has this been featured recently, and would it benefit our membership if we talked about this particular topic?

E Goldberg:       I was mainly involved with the writing and collating of those ideas very early on in my career, when I didn’t have as much experience, and acted as a moderator, and sorta help me get my feet wet at these conferences. During my second year on the didactic committee, Esther Choo suggested that we do a pre-conference curriculum. I didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into, but it turned out it was four to five hours of didactics and it’s now the third year that we’ve done this for conference curriculum, and I had the opportunity to serve as a moderator.

E Goldberg:       I think it was really helpful to other junior faculty, and even mid-career faculty, to meet with these other group of women and benefit from what I was getting from AWAEM all along, in a very small period of time, on the day before the conference started. So that’s one of the things that I was involved with, together with a huge group of other people that I’m proud of.

Can you point to other AWAEM initiatives that have been impactful in the careers of members?

E Goldberg:       I think there’s a couple, there’s two things that I can think of. The awards, the AWAEM awards that we give out, are really important. I think women need to be recognized for all this wonderful work they’re doing, and they’re not always their own greatest cheerleaders. They might not step up to the plate and nominate themselves, but through this AWAEM award process, there’s a lot of means and place for others to nominate you. I think it’s really important when it comes to promotion, and to the others knowing your worth, that you receive these types of awards from a national organization.

E Goldberg:       We have a really robust awards committee that does really terrific work. We review dozens of women’s’ CV’s and letters to make these awards happen. I think it’s incredible that all these women in emergency medicine are giving their free time to do that kind of review as a service to other women in our profession, and that’s sort of what AWAEM stands for.

E Goldberg:       The other thing I can point to that we’re developing now, is the letter writers bureau. We’ve recognized that … I’m in a place at Brown, where we have, something like, 40% of our faculty are women. But many other women in academia do not have that big raft of other women to grow with in their own institution. And so, through the letter writers bureau, you have the opportunity that, if you’re going up for promotion, to ask someone else from AWAEM that is an associate professor, or full professor, to write that important letter of reference for you for promotion.

E Goldberg:       That definitely fulfills a need, and, again, it has a lot to do with our mission at AWAEM which is to promote women in academics.

Can you describe, in your experience, how leadership and women-focused professional organizations, is considered, for example, for academic advancement, or promotion?

E Goldberg:       I think it’s really important to be, not only involved locally, but also on a national level. AWAEM is actually the largest academy within SAEM, and so you have the potential, if you’re involved with AWAEM, to touch a lot of people throughout the country. Not only inspire other women, but it should also allow you to get recognized for this work that you’re doing on the national stage.

E Goldberg:       I know, for me, being at the role of chair of didactics, and then VP of education, where I developed several hours of didactics, together with the other women in AWAEM, that were then heard by women, and men, nationally. That was important for me in the promotions process. It was a very non-intimidating way to get involved with a national organization, because there are other women in that group that I’ve already known, and have mentored me throughout residency. And have also helped me when there were challenges, and made me realize that it’s … can be tough to be a woman in academics and emergency medicine, but there’s also lots of benefits.

How do you anticipate the professional needs of women in academic emergency medicine to change in the next ten years?

E Goldberg:       That’s such a great question. I see a lot of positive change in the last decade alone. I think there has been huge recognition that, in medicine, we are still setting … We are still putting up a lot of barriers for women of color, and poor, white women, and people of different backgrounds; transgender, people … we not fully embraced everyone yet. There, finally, is this movement to make this positive change, and so I’m actually really optimistic about what the future will bring. Not just for women in academics, but women who go into the community, and other female doctors.

E Goldberg:       In terms of what I think the challenges are, I think all physicians, currently, are challenged by the amount of administrative work that we do at our daily jobs. There’s not a lot of conversation about how we can solve that problem.

E Goldberg:       All of us went into medicine to treat the patient, and to be caregivers. That seems like it has become very little of what we do, sometimes. I think, with the growth of electronic health record, and the increasing regulatory requirements, we’re really gonna need to tackle that burden.

How have you perceived gender to affect your own career development?

E Goldberg:       I have three children. I have a 14 month old, a three year old, and a six year old. I had my first, couple months before I became a chief resident at Brown, and then the two others as an attending. I think every single time after I’ve had a child, there’s been this period of reflection of, am I in the right place, am I doing the right thing? Am I there enough for my children? Am I doing important enough work, professionally, to continue along this path?

E Goldberg:       Fortunately, I’ve always come out of this thinking, yes, this work that I’m doing professionally is important, and it’s important for my children to see that I’ve been able to reconcile all of those questions that come up in the post-partum period.

E Goldberg:       I think there are those unique challenges that women have, that aren’t necessarily experienced by men, that we need to recognize them. Instead of feeling like women and men are equal, we need to embrace the fact that women need additional support.

E Goldberg:       One of the terrific things I’ve seen is, I know that the Harvard program and scholarships to help young women that wanna be physician scientists, and give them additional grant support for a research assistant, or administrative help. There are some really terrific, forward thinking programs that are currently in place, and I think that we need to strive to embrace those more, and recognize there’s some unique challenges with being a woman in medicine.

How has involvement in AWAEM translated into greater gender equity in your own work environment?

E Goldberg:       I think having so many women who are faculty involved with AWAEM has really, really made Brown be forward thinking about how to embrace women in the workplace. We’ve recently created a salary equity task force, and really started to ask some tough questions surrounding how are department is run, and questions about physician’s salaries.

E Goldberg:       I think this isn’t being done yet nationally. We’ve actually … Brown has received a AWAEM award for being a department that most supports women in academic emergency medicine. I know, having so many members at Brown … Our part of these national conversations has improved our department’s culture, and I think that speaks to the value of AWAEM.

What career accomplishment would you say that you’re most proud of?

E Goldberg:       I can honestly say that I’m just proud to be a physician. That’s not something I ever took for granted. I didn’t have parents that were physicians. I’ve known from a very young age that I wanted to go into medicine. There were definitely times when I doubted my abilities to become a physician, and it was a very, very happy day when I managed to get into emergency medicine, which is the specialty I always saw myself in.

E Goldberg:       I think it’s easy in a really excellent department, such as the one I’m in, to feel like what you’re doing is not enough, and that you should always take on more. But in the end, I think, we, as physicians, have really important skills. Even if, on that day, we can just be a physician, and not put on all of our hats, and be the triple threat, I think we need to be proud of what we do.

Tell me a little bit about your research and what your goals are.

E Goldberg:       I recently finished a post-doctoral research fellowship in aging. It really opened my eyes to a lot of changes that we can still make for our geriatric patients in emergency medicine. I’m really excited to delve more into that research, and advance the science in falls, and injury prevention, and make our entities more age friendly.

E Goldberg:       I think there’s a growing movement led by Chris Carpenter and Ula Hwang, to create a safer, better place for our older adults, who are often our most critically ill patients. I’m really excited to be part of that movement, and just create evidence surrounding it.

Really important work. What piece of advice would you give to a younger version of yourself, or an AWAEM member at an earlier stage of her career, that, perhaps, you didn’t know before?

E Goldberg:       I think, you have an incredible skill, being a woman physician, and you also have a lot of people around you that are invested in your success. I think it’s just so important to get involved with national organizations, for that reason. You can compare what people are doing at other institutions. You can find people that you really connect with, and stay in touch with over the years. Who really act as mentors, and you can collaborate with them on research projects, and other policy oriented work.

E Goldberg:       You, yourself, might be a mentor to younger people, and really find your worth in that role. I think my advice to a younger version of myself, and to younger people in emergency medicine is, just reach out to AWAEM, or to whatever academy, or national group that you feel speaks to you, and just show up.

Please name three other AWAEM members who we should interview.

E Goldberg:       Esther Choo was a mentor, and still is, a mentor to me. You probably already interviewed her, but she is incredible, and has such great wisdom to impart. So she would be someone.

                        Neha Raukar was my co-chair of didactics, and she’s the VP of education now for AWAEM, has such incredible energy, and is really been a leader in this pre-conference curriculum for AWAEM. So she would be a wonderful person to interview.

                        And then Tracy Madsen. These are all former, or current, Brown University faculty. Tracy just recently received a okay to so some really important work on stroke and gender, and is our director of stroke at Brown. She’s a leader, really bright, and someone I really look up to.

Thank you so much again, Doctor Elizabeth Goldberg, for your time and your insights.

E Goldberg:       Thank you so much for having me.

Listen to the complete interview here!