Women doctors still face a frustrating gender bias. Here's how they keep moving forward.
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L'Oréal Paris Women of Worth

If you had a heart attack right now, what do you think your chances of surviving would be?

Obviously that would depend on a number of factors, including age, lifestyle and medical history, but gender also plays a part. And we're not just talking about your own gender:  the gender of your attending cardiologist can have an impact too — especially if you're a woman.

According to a study that was published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a woman is more likely to survive a heart attack if her attending physician is also a woman.


Photo via Pasárgada Comunicação/Flickr.

The study was based on data collected from 1991 to 2010 with 582,000 patients. Its results suggest that women are less likely than men to survive cardiac arrest in general, but the survival rate gap between genders was largest when the attending physician was male.

However, both men and women's survival rates were higher when they were in the care of a woman physician.

Since women physicians are so adept at saving the lives of heart attack patients, you'd think there'd be a lot of them. But cardiology remains male-dominated: only 10% of cardiologists are women.

It's a frustrating reality that hasn't changed much in decades.

That said, there are inspiring women who are making their way in the field and doing their part to help other prospective women cardiologists follow suit.  One such cardiologist is Dr. Nicole Harkin of Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates.

Photo via Dr. Harkin.

Ironically, Dr. Harkin was always in the presence of a lot of women on her journey to becoming a doctor. She was at an all-girls high school when she realized she loved science and wanted to go into medicine. When she attended medical school at Boston University, her graduating class was 60% female. And when she completed her fellowship at New York University, the class was a 50/50 gender split.

Here's the thing: Dr. Harkin's experience isn't unusual.

"There’s a fair amount of women training to be doctors, they’re just not going into different specialties in an equal proportion," she explains.

Dr. Harkin postulates this may have something to do with the fact that certain areas of medicine — like cardiology — still feel like boys clubs at times. And, even though some fields can be more competitive than others, there's no reason women should feel like they don't belong there. However, because of the perpetuation of outdated stereotypes, that's exactly what happens.

Fortunately, Dr. Harkin wasn't really intimidated by her field because she was lucky enough to train in an incredibly supportive environment where there were other women fellows and mentors.

"My mentors and my strong educational background made me confident in my skills," she explains. "And my passion made me persevere."

Still, gender stereotypes pervade all aspects of medicine, often making women doctors feel like they're not regarded with the same level of respect as their male colleagues.

Photo by Martin Brosy/Unsplash.

For example, when Dr. Harkin was going through the interview process to become a cardiology fellow, she remembers feeling like some of her interviewers were trying to suss out whether or not she was planning to have kids soon.

"That definitely rubbed me the wrong way," she recalls. "I wondered if I were a man if I would’ve been asked that."

And when it comes to patient care, she can't count the number of times she's been mistaken for a nurse, especially by older men.

If that's not bad enough, according to a 2017 survey, women doctors make $105,000 less a year on average than men doctors.

Photo via US Army Africa/Flickr.

Yet, despite all that, there have been numerous studies that suggest women doctors may be better caregivers than their male counterparts because they're more likely to adhere to clinical guidelines, are more focused on preventative care, and communicate more with their patients.

In fact, communication may be an important factor in whether or not a cardiac arrest patient survives.

Dr. Harkin believes that women patients may feel more inclined to discuss their symptoms with a female doctor because there is a perception that a male doctor might dismiss or downplay them.

This could be exacerbated by the fact that the early symptoms of a heart attack can present differently in women than in men. For women, the signs of a heart attack can include jaw or shoulder pain, shortness of breath and nausea. Sometimes, it just feels like a bad case of indigestion.

It doesn't help that women appear in cardiovascular studies far less often than men, so the details around their symptoms are still less widely known. More medical studies that represent both genders equally would serve all doctors, not just male doctors.

The medical community still has a long way to go to close its gender gap, but women like Dr. Harkin are doing what they can to move the needle forward. And they're saving countless lives in the process.

Medical students graduating in Cuba. Photo via undp timorleste/Flickr.

She was a chief fellow in her fellowship program, and often spoke with other women fellows about their concerns with cardiology, the work-life balance, and what they need to do to achieve their goals.

"I think that’s huge in terms of fostering women and encouraging them to go into some of these specialties," Dr. Harkin notes.

After all, Dr. Harkin's own mentors were instrumental in her succeeding in her field.

"It fosters that sense of 'hey, I can do this too.'"

What's more, organizations like the American College of Cardiology (ACC), the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Cardiovascular Research Foundation (CRF) now have a number of women in leadership roles in order to help keep gender equality a constant part of the conversation while the field of cardiology evolves. Hopefully soon, with their guidance, the disparities in pay, family planning, and respect will be a thing of the past.

Clearly women doctors are just as competent as men doctors, and their presence within a medical community can only help that community do better by its patients. It's time they're treated like they deserve to be there.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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The battle between millennials and older generations isn't exactly a generational war—it's more a case of mistaken generational identity. A decade ago, whining about millennials being young adults unprepared to make their way in the world at least made sense mathematically. But when people bag on millennials now they end up looking rather foolish.

A marketing researcher with a doctorate in social psychology wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune titled "Post-pandemic, some millennials finally decide to start #adulting." And when the Tribune shared it to Twitter, their since-deleted tweet read, "Writer Jennifer Rosner predicts COVID-10 lockdowns will force easy-breezy millennials to grow up."

Hoo boy.

Interestingly, the writer of the op-ed is a millennial herself, but she repeats generalizations about her entire generation that seem like they mainly apply to her own social circle. Read it yourself to decide, but regardless, the tweet of the op-ed itself set off a firestorm of responses from millennials who are tired of being painted as irresponsible young people who don't know how to "adult" instead of what they actually are.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.