You left out managing my toddlers too! I think trying to stay as organized as possible helps in juggling everything. When I’m in the operating room it’s pretty clear what I need to focus on however the rest of the week I really need to prepare when I’m doing what. I often schedule specific work time on my calendar, e.g. from 1 pm to 5 pm I need to work on this manuscript, or when the kids go to bed I need to review this journal article. While I do wish there were more hours in the day we have to work with what we have. It also helps to have an amazing and supportive spouse!
You also received the Rising Pioneer Award at the Medical College of Wisconsin (congratulations!). Being a woman physician and a research scientist is a subset of a subset. Are you seeing more women take this career path now than when you were first starting out?
Actually, I do feel as if there are more women pursuing this career - which I am so happy to see. I’m less worried that women won’t initially choose this career than I am that they will not continue along this path. The physician-scientist pipeline is already quite leaky, but the plumbing problem is often worse among women. I do train aspiring physician-scientists in my lab and have noticed most of them are women.
There is data that shows women are more likely to continue in academia if they are mentored by a woman. The problem, however, is the lack of women mentors!
What do you think are the challenges and opportunities in training the next generation of physician scientists in anesthesiology?
I think there is a combination of old and new challenges that we are going to face as we look into the future. Physicians drive medical innovation and anesthesiologists have to contribute to the advancement of medicine. Past challenges remain; how to balance research and medicine, getting the protective time needed to be successful in research, and the never-ending battle of obtaining funding to name a few.
And now we are seeing unique hurdles with the next generation: increased cost of medical school debt, increased research regulatory requirements, and providing more higher acuity care on a day-to-day basis resulting in fatigue and burnout. I believe anesthesiologists are best suited to lead medical innovation in many areas but without the proper training and investment this dream will not become a reality. The opportunities are endless, and we need to think bigger and more broadly when it comes to how our specialty will advance medicine.
Is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t yet touched on?
I often get asked by medical students if knowing what I know now would I chose a different specialty. The answer is always “absolutely not.” I love being an anesthesiologist and I belong in academia. I was hoping to get through this without bringing up the pandemic, but the truth is the last year has caused some damage to all specialties, all physicians who conduct research, and the advancement of medicine.
My dream is that within the next five years we’re allowed to engage with each other more, support one another, and it does not matter whether you are in private practice or academia, we all chose to be physicians in Anesthesiology.
Julie K. Freed MD, PhD, is an Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Research for the Department of Anesthesiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She has a secondary appointment in Physiology and subspecializes in adult Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology.