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Women In Medicine

January 30, 2013, 6:09 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Women In Medicine

Growing up, if you went to the doctor, you likely saw a man. But, not anymore. Nationally one-third of all doctors are women. And closer to home, 80 percent of Sanford's employees are women.

Dr. Michelle Schimelpfenig has just more than a year left in her pediatric residency program at Sanford. It's a dream she's been pursuing since high school.

"I took a mission trip in high school and was able to go to Mexico and see there's a really great need for medical care," Schimelpfenig said.

Schimelpfenig says she's never seen her gender as an obstacle to reach her goal. In fact, all of Sanford's pediatric residents are women.

"It's good from a patient standpoint to be able to have the option, especially in some particular specialties a female may feel more comfortable having a female provider than a male,"  Schimelpfenig said.

It's not just here at Sanford Children's Hospital where there are more women working, but there are also more female students at the Sanford School of Medicine.

"The percentage of females in the medical school classes has been going up consistently and the last two years over 50 percent of most of the classes in the nation are female," Sanford School of Medicine Associate Chair Department of Surgery Dr. Adela Casas-Melley said.

Casas-Melley says that's a big change from when she went to medical school. She was the only woman in her general surgery residency program in 1991.

"By the time I finished my residency six years later the incoming intern class was all female, so it's been a huge change in a very short period of time," Casas-Melley said.

Casas-Melley believes increasing the number of female doctors increases patients quality of care.

"In any aspect of life it's good to have both views--the male and female perspective. In medicine it has been missing for a long time," Casas-Melley said.

"Regardless of gender the most important thing in medicine is you provide quality medical care and that you're a compassionate physician," Schimelpfenig said.

Some specialties, such as pediatrics, are more popular with women doctors. Women now make up 31 percent of physicians nationwide. That's a 400 percent increase since 1981.

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