We sat down with Cathy Yeagley, M.D., perinatologist at Pediatrix affiliate Melbourne Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Melbourne, Fla. Following fellowship in 1993, Dr. Yeagley worked as full-time faculty for a community residency program in North Carolina for five years. She then went into private practice in Atlanta for about 20 years before joining Mednax in 2004. Today, she serves as Practice Medical Director, leading a team of sonographers and nurses specializing in high-risk obstetric care.
Watch the video for the full interview or check out the highlights below!
What do you think it means to be a woman in health care today?
I think it’s an honor to be in health care in general, whether you’re a man or a woman. It’s a fantastic field regardless of what position you hold. I think it’s great to be a woman in an OB/GYN field because we do have some similarities to the patients that we care for. Although I do joke with my patients that I’ve never been pregnant—I don’t have any kids but cared for lots of people that did.
What are the challenges for women?
I think it’s gotten better over the decades that I’ve been doing this. There are still traditional women roles that we feel like we have to fill in terms of household chores, laundry and cooking. I never was saddled with the childcare responsibilities that some of my colleagues were. I think that there were days when people weren’t very well supported to have pregnancies—the guys weren’t well supported to take off time when their wives had babies either, as far as that goes. Things have gotten a lot better over the years in that respect. But probably just trying to be a professional and having the same home responsibilities that you grew up with is the biggest challenge.
What advice do you have for women applying to medical school or entering the medical field for the first time?
I’m jealous because you have every opportunity open to you now. When I was in medical school, the women were not allowed to enroll in the sports medicine elective because it was for guys only. We had very few role models in academic medicine and in any of the surgical specialties—when I was in medical school, there was one general surgery resident that was a female, and I don’t think she was being treated very well. That has all changed. Now women can be orthopedic surgeons and urologists and whatever they want to be. So, I’m a little jealous because I think there are more opportunities, though I wouldn’t trade what I do for the world—I don’t resent it, but I’m jealous that there are other opportunities for women. There are challenges about being a physician in the current climate, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I would encourage anyone that wants to go to medical school to do it. They have lots more role models—there are women who are chairmen of academic departments and editors of leading journals—lots more opportunities and lots more role models than there were 30 years ago.
How can women physicians best support fellow women physicians?
Again, I think the times have changed and that’s a lot better. We have to be aware of women physicians in our area who have challenges at home, relationship issues at home and childcare issues at home. There are still inequities in terms of academic departments. I don’t feel that at all because I’ve been out of academics for more than 20 years, but there are still inequities in academic departments and opportunities for advancement. I think women are still sort of passed over because it’s perceived that they may not want the positions of responsibility. But times are way better than they were.
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