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Member Spotlight: Dr. Allison Fernandez Highlights "Women of Impact" in Anesthesiology

  
Dr. Allison Fernandez isn't afraid to ask the hard questions. For the past two years, she's directed that inquisitive nature toward women in the field of anesthesiology, asking them about their lives and careers in often very personal terms. Her video series Women of Impact in Anesthesiology captures their unique experiences as bite-size pieces of advice for those seeking to find their own path toward professional development within the specialty.



The Women of Impact in Anesthesiology video series launched in 2020 with a mentoring grant awarded by ASA’s Committee on Professional Diversity. Can you give us a little background on what first gave you the idea for the project and how you pitched it in your grant application?

I had the idea to create this documentary series as I work in a small, clinically driven anesthesia department with few opportunities for mentorship for mid-career physicians like myself. At the time I was experiencing burnout between the clinical demands, COVID surge, and family responsibilities. I thought that with easy access to social media outlets such as YouTube I could record interviews of women leaders in our field and post it to on social media. I wanted the material to be easy and free access for all anesthesiologists. The interview focus is on how the women started out in their career and how they advanced, mentorship, sponsorship, networking, and issues specific to women such as gender disparity and micro-aggression they face and how they deal with it. I wrote all of this in the grant and they really liked the idea of creating this video series kind of like an advice column. I think the most valuable piece is that you can listen to all of the women and their unique experiences and find the one that resonates with you the most. I shared the videos with ASA's communications department and they really enjoyed the videos and thought it was great content to add to the ASA website.


Most interview series take a soup-to-nuts approach to their subjects, covering the whole “story” in a single episode before moving on to the next person. Your interviews are often comprised of multiple episodes, each devoted to a different aspect of your subjects’ life and career. What’s the reasoning behind this unique approach?

I decided to divide the interviews into 15-minute segments, mostly because in my personal experience I never listen to an hour-long segment. So I figured that splitting it up and giving descriptions about the short clip would give people the option to listen to the segments they want to hear about.


What’s your process for preparing for an interview? Do you like to do a lot of research on the person first or go in relatively fresh with some basic questions to get the ball rolling? What’s your strategy for getting your interview subjects to open up on tough topics like work/life balance, mental health, and gender disparities in medicine?

To prepare for an interview I ask that they send me their CV. I like to tailor the questions based on their personal experiences. I also have some basic questions that I use as well. I usually start with asking about leadership development. Once they get comfortable I ask them more challenging questions. Even though some questions are challenging they have all answered these difficult questions. I think people like to share their good and bad experiences. It helps people recognize that we all are human and have common challenges but we all resolve them in different ways.


What have been your biggest takeaways from having all these in-depth conversations with women leaders in anesthesiology?

The biggest take away is need to have strong family and friend support. If you pursue academic endeavors you should make sure you pick a topic that you are passionate about, find several mentors to work with you, department support and resources, and follow the path that works for you. Many women have the same experiences, so do not feel alone and reach out to other women for support. Finally, sometimes you have to make hard decisions for your family and your career with the information you have at hand. Do not second-guess your choices, as you made the best decision you could at that moment.


What’s next for “WIA”?

I am in the process of recording more women, especially to showcase the diversity of women in the field of anesthesiology. I am hoping to find a grant to help me continue this project.


Is there anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t asked you about?

The field of anesthesiology has a great community. Reach out to people you will be surprised how generous people are with their time and wisdom.


Allison Fernandez, MD, MBA, is an Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. She practices Pediatric Anesthesiology and Acute and Chronic Pediatric Pain Management. She created Women of Impact in Anesthesiology, a video advice series of women leaders in anesthesiology. 

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ASA Community Blog is published as a benefit for ASA members. The views expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributing writers only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of ASA.

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Comments

19 days ago

it has certainly been a long hard road...I doubt the glass ceiling has been entirely eroded yet