APPEARANCES
EVENT
4th World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Conference
LECTURE
How Emerging Healthcare Markets Can Learn from Past Mistakes
LOCATION
Marriott Renaissance
Schaumberg Convention Center Hotel
Chicago, Illinois
 
The Medical Tourism Association is excited to announce Linda Brodsky as a Speaker at the 4th World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress in Chicago, IL held October 25-28.
EVENT
DOWN SYNDROME PARENT GROUP OF WESTERN NEW YORK
LECTURE
Empowering Ourselves for a Brighter Future: Attention and Behavior Problems in DS — Could It Be Sleep Apnea?
LOCATION
PANEL MEMBERS
Dr. Linda Brodsky
EVENT
VISITING PROFESSOR, GREECE
LECTURE
ENT Manifestations of Extraesophageal Reflux
LOCATION
University of Athens Medical School
Athens, Greece
LECTURE
Students United for Multi-Cultural Awareness Gala
“GD is not PC: Lessons from the WEF and LBMD”
LOCATION
Nichols School
Buffalo, NY
Glenn and Awdry Flickinger Performing Arts Center
PANEL MEMBERS
Dr. Linda Brodsky
 
As “Civil Rights Season” comes to a close at the Nichols School, Dr. Brodsky will discuss the ways in which gender discrimination still exists in society and how the next generation of students can affect change.
EVENT
HADASSAH
LECTURE
The Gender Gap in Healthcare

Despite major gains for women over the past 90 years, there is still one major area in which women regularly face unequal and unfair treatment: medicine. Women are in the minority among top decisions and policy makers in the field. As such, funding for the research and publication of work by and for women is hard to find, affecting the treatment, safety and availability of care for all Americans. On a national level, the dearth of women leaders in organized medicine skews the way our elected offices are informed and advised on healthcare issues and healthcare delivery. From harassment in the workplace to rampant misdiagnoses, women face increasingly difficult and potentially lethal challenges in healthcare.

LOCATION
Hadassah, Buffalo Chapter
Buffalo, NY
PANEL MEMBERS
Dr. Linda Brodsky
LECTURE
Telling Stories: Dr. Brodsky will share her own experiences combating gender discrimination in medicine and teach students how to best recognize and deal with discrimination in the workplace. Dr. Brodsky will also share her views on how medicine is changing and what young women doctors (and doctors-to-be) can do to affect change.
LOCATION
Stanford School of Medicine
Stanford, CA
PANEL MEMBERS
Dr. Linda Brodsky
LECTURE
Telling Stories: Dr. Brodsky will share her own experiences combating gender discrimination in medicine and teach students how to best recognize and deal with discrimination in the workplace. Dr. Brodsky will also share her views on how medicine is changing and what young women doctors (and doctors-to-be) can do to affect change.
LOCATION
Stanford School of Medicine Stanford, CA
PANEL MEMBERS
Dr. Linda Brodsky
 
Dr. Brodsky will share her own experiences combating gender discrimination in medicine and teach students how to best recognize and deal with discrimination in the workplace. Dr. Brodsky will also share her views on how medicine is changing and what young women doctors (and doctors-to-be) can do to affect change.
LECTURE
Minding the Gap in Healthcare for Women and Children
LOCATION
Annual Meeting, Society for Ear, Nose and Throat Advances in Children
Salt Lake City, UT
PANEL MEMBERS
Joan Arvedson, PhD, Maria Pena, MD, David Brown, MD, Ron Turner, RN
 
The lecture will introduce the challenges facing healthcare delivery to children in the 21st century in the United States. The focus will be on the roles of women and caregivers, both as mothers and physicians. The panelists will be asked to comment on how they would respond to these challenges with actionable plans at the physician-patient interface.
EVENT
AAUW National Convention, Panel on The Face of Workplace Discrimination Today
LOCATION
St. Louis, MO
SPEECH
The New Face of Gender Discrimination
 
Dr. Brodsky was asked to serve on a panel during the AAUW’s National Convention in St. Louis, MO. Dr. Brodsky delivered her speech, titled “The New Face of Gender Discrimination” and then discussed the issue with other panel members and audience members. Dr. Brodsky examined the pervasiveness of gender discrimination and sexual harassment in medicine as well as its effects on the delivery of healthcare for all Americans.
Read the speech below or download entire speech

I must begin by telling each and every one of you that without support from the AAUW, your support, I would not have been able to sustain myself through my nearly ten year legal battle, and I certainly could not have transformed into the advocate for gender equality in the healthcare workplace that I am today. This organization’s ongoing commitment to the advancement of women across our society gives me hope that my individual struggle will soon be eclipsed by our collective triumphs. I am honored to be a panel participant and look forward to exchanging ideas with all of you today. I thank you.

Having said that, if I had the choice, I would not be here speaking before you today. Did I really have a choice? Should I have remained silent? Could I have remained silent? The answer clearly is no. But when I chose to speak out, I was not prepared for the enormity of the task, the inevitable attacks, the loss of self esteem and loss of friends and colleagues and the betrayals from people with legal expertise whom I should have been able to trust.

My tale is one of myth busting. I will tell you that gender discrimination is no longer about women not having education or skills. It is not about the inability to rise through the ranks. Or at least to a certain point. And it is not likely to be solved by individual litigation alone, even focused litigation. But don’t despair, we can open avenues and make opportunities for change by re-examining and re-defining the problem so we can implement innovative solutions.

Let me first tell you about me—about my education and training, my career trajectory and then the cutting hurt when I first began to believe that I was a victim of gender discrimination. I will take you on my journey through the legal labyrinth of gender discrimination and then share my thoughts about the present status of this insidious and now more often hidden situation—not just for healthcare workers, but also for women as patients and caregivers. And finally, I hope to energize you with new approaches to break through these barriers to women’s full and equal participation in healthcare, and indeed society as a whole.

I am and have been for the last 26 years, a practicing pediatric otolaryngologist — in the vernacular that’s an ENT surgeon for kids. And until 2008, I was also a tenured, Full Professor of both Otolaryngology and Pediatrics and the Director of Pediatric Otolaryngology at the Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. These “employment relationships” (as the career I poured my heart and soul into is called in legal documents) came to an end after I completed a long and arduous journey as a plaintiff in several Federal Court lawsuits claiming gender based discrimination and equal pay act violations against my employers, two large and very powerful institutions.

My educational journey is not atypical. My parents did not attend college, so education was a top priority for my family. Finishing near the top of my class in high school, I was admitted to Bryn Mawr College, a small, elite women’s college in suburban Philadelphia. I then began an intense medical education at the Medical College of Pennsylvania, formerly known as the Women’s Medical College. I went on to survive another 4 years of grueling training in a surgical field. We had all night call every third night and in those days we did not go home until the next day’s work was over. I trained in the Bronx, NY, at Albert Einstein college of Medicine/MHMC. And then I pursued an additional year of training in Buffalo to become a pediatric otolaryngologist.

Clearly, education was not my barrier. And, it is no longer a barrier for most women. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2008 Report entitled: The Global Gender Gap, a report on women, work and the economy across 130 nations, the United States (along with 23 other countries), has completely closed this gap, largely due to the hard work of many in this room.

My career aspirations continued In Buffalo in 1983, when I accepted a faculty position as a pediatric otolaryngologist at the State University medical school and at the Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. At first, my income was derived exclusively from my clinical practice—money which I earned by caring for patients. I received no compensation from the hospital or university for my substantial teaching, research and administrative duties. But after my first year, when I learned that other academic surgeons (all males) received compensation from both the University and the hospital, I went to the Dean to request and only then did I receive what I was told was the “usual” stipend for a surgeon from the university (funny how they’d forgot to mention when they hired me that there was a “usual” stipend).

My practice grew and soon I was one of the busiest surgeons at the hospital; I was also the only woman surgeon at the hospital. Seven years later, in 1990, I earned tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor, the first woman at that medical school to achieve that rank in a surgical field. Shortly thereafter a new chair was chosen for the department. And though I had applied, I was not chosen. My relationship with the new chair was very difficult. His ongoing harassment, both in the work environment and in my personal life was constant and crippling. I was singled out for “evaluations” at which I was demeaned and berated for my “style” and “inability to be a team player” — typical complaints about women who dare to achieve in a man’s world. Yet interestingly, the quality and quantity of my work and my leadership capabilities were never in question.

At work, I was literally working two jobs — taking care of thousands of children each year, and funding the academic and administrative programs for the university and hospital from our hard earned clinical income. At work and at home I made every minute count, and in 1996 I was promoted to the rank of Full Professor of Otolaryngology and Pediatrics, one of only about 12 women nationally in ORL who at that time had ever achieved this highest rank of full professor.

Clearly, rising through the ranks, but only to a point, was also not my barrier. As long as the criteria are concrete, there is usually no question. But as soon as the criteria are less defined, or the position too powerful, or the decision lies in the hands of committees or individuals (usually men), women do not fare as well. According to data from the AMA, women still occupy the upper echelons of medical academia less frequently than their overall representation, and in some important areas actually lag behind what would be expected. While the number of women in medicine tripled from 1975 to 2005, now comprising almost 30% of doctors, they still compirse 15% of the full professors, and less than 10% of medical school chairs and deans.

Now for how I became a litigant. A year after my promotion, the chair lost his NYS license to practice medicine for patient care issues and was required to resign from the chairmanship. Of the nine members of our department, I was the only full professor and the only person with the seniority, qualifications and experience to run an academic department. Given the apparent inevitability, I dared to hope that I would be appointed as interim chair and compete for the permanent chair. I was beyond shocked when they chose a non-university, non-academic otolaryngologist, a male, as interim chair. I protested and was informed by the Dean that he had “no baggage” but that I still could apply for the permanent chair job. Once the initial shock of rejection receded, I thought, well, if I only worked harder, I would get what I wanted. Two subsequent, seminal events woke me up from my fantasy that gender equality really existed and that I would be afforded the career towards which I had worked for the past 18 years.

With the change in leadership our residency training program underwent review. Having no experience in these matters, the new interim chair requested my guidance and help. Part of the review includes faculty salary data. I then learned that a recently hired male ENT faculty member with lower rank, no seniority and fewer responsibilities than I, was being compensated by the university at twice my salary — yes, two-times what I was then being compensated by the university. Never mind my professorship and 14 years of service and seniority! Also, my male colleagues at the hospital, almost all of whom also had less seniority and fewer responsibilities, received as much as 5 times the compensation that I received, even though by then I had been administrative head of one of the busiest and most successful clinical services for more than a decade.

The second wake-up call came when the job description for the permanent chair was published. Their requirements for that the position were arbitrarily so narrow that they precluded me (and almost every woman academic otolaryngologist in the country) from applying for the position.

I spent the next 2-3 years trying to resolve these issues informally and internally. During that time my only reward was escalating harassment and retaliation. What was I to do? Remain silent? Risk my status, my tenure, my practice, my reputation? By 2000, I hired a lawyer. In 2000 and 2001, we filed seven charges with the EEOC; eighteen months later we had our seven “right to sue” letters and in September, 2001, we filed our first claim in federal court.

My lawsuit became a third full time job. I studied salary levels, reviewed 40,000 pages of discovery documents, dealt with expert witnesses and data consultants, and attended or read more than 30 depositions. I constantly worried about how I was going to do all of this and still have time for my family, my work, my friends, and myself. The emotional toll was compounded the enormous economic toll.

How did I cope? My lawsuit became my fourth child and my newest challenge. I learned everything I could about gender discrimination, especially at these two institutions. I was astounded to learn that the university had studied the status of their women as early as 1970 and that not only did our taxpayer-supported state university have a definable history of gender disparity, but also — by their own admission in documents as late as 2001 — that they had studied it, admitted to it and even admitted that they failed to correct it!

Often I thought I did not have the strength to go on. During these 8 years I had to file at least 5 additional EEOC charges, 4 claims in federal court, I was in the NYS supreme court 3 times, the court of appeals twice and a party to at least 5 union grievances against the university, one of which was highly successful and of which I am very proud, as it resulted in a pay increase to all clinical faculty at all four SUNY medical schools costing the state an additional $8-12 million yearly. This “correction” in the interpretation of the negotiated contract between the university and the faculty was particularly beneficial to women, who more often received lower salaries.

And although retaliation is reputedly unlawful, during this time, I would claim more than 50 separate incidents of retaliation, including my being fired as head of pediatric ENT at the Children’s Hospital after 20 years of service. During this time I was also targeted as a disruptive physician and had my clinical privileges unfairly suspended for a month because I dared to speak up about substandard patient care.

In 2007 and 2008, I settled with the University — this is a public document, the details of which are on my website. All I can say about both federal claims against the hospital is that we “resolved our differences to the satisfaction of all parties” and “The parties have chosen to keep the terms of the resolution confidential.”

A triumph? I am not so sure. By this time my national reputation had suffered. I had been branded a troublemaker. I was marginalized, demeaned, ignored, demoralized, and often felt very alone. When I began the lawsuit, I was not prepared for how much my life would change. But I soon learned that I was not so alone. Women physicians and scientists from all over the country began to contact me with their stories after they had heard of mine. Some of these women were in very early stages of their careers — medical students, residents, and junior faculty — others were established and successful. I started to counsel, to advocate and then to organize. Only by sharing in the stories of these other women did I begin to see a new light at the end of the tunnel.

Now I find myself channeling what could have been crippling, demoralizing and depressing into helping individuals and organizations overcome gender discrimination. The fight for gender equity is far from over — as all of you certainly know and as my experiences show — and in my opinion it appears to be getting worse. It is going underground and is being accomplished in the shadows. As I listen to so many women’s stories of injustice, I am convinced that equality will never be realized as long as the victim has to police the system, be the whistleblower and then spend an average of ten years navigating a complicated legal system at great personal and financial cost.

Just how pervasive are gender inequities and disparities in health care? Take the AMA’s 2008 study that 75% of women doctors report experiencing gender discrimination and sexual harassment at some time during their career. From pay inequity to limited access to promotions to blacklisting to sexual harassment, women rising up in the medical ranks can and will, at any given time, encounter barriers and discover doors of opportunity shut in their faces. According to the US Census Bureau report as reported by the AMA, women physicians earn only 63 cents on the dollar that men physicians earn and that “no other profession in the US exhibits greater salary disparities by sex”. Furthermore, gender stereotyping, misconceptions about their commitment to patient care, and male dominated positions of policy control are but a few of the barriers that prevent women physicians from having a substantial impact on the way medicine is practiced.

Beyond the toll being taken on our women physicians, gender discrimination in medicine has significant repercussions for the health of all Americans. Does gender matter when we are talking about the healthcare system or in the healthcare you receive from your physician? In an ideal world, no. But physicians and patients alike bring their own realities, their own experiences, and their own unique points of view to every highly personal medical encounter — and these biases can literally be a matter of a healthy life or, in the worst case, an untimely death.

Take the story of one terribly distraught mother, at her wits end, who was told by her male doctors that she should seek psychological counseling for herself because her 2 year old son was still waking up crying 15-20 times every night. Only when she rejected that advice and visited another doctor, a woman, who carefully listened to her and took her complaints seriously, was her son diagnosed with sleep disturbance due to severe abdominal pain from unrecognized acid reflux. Once treated, he slept.

Or consider the care of your mothers, sisters and daughters — or, since most everyone in this room is a woman, your own care. Studies of the treatment of female patients have increasingly and alarmingly shown that women’s complaints are more likely to be taken less seriously and are too often treated less vigorously, predominantly (though in fairness not exclusively) by male physicians. In a British study, physician gender resulted in more vigorous and appropriate cardiac care for the male patients of male physicians, but no difference for either gender patients of female physicians. Furthermore, women physicians may practice differently, be better listeners and communicators and thus give us even more reason to challenge the collective lack of will to optimize women’s roles in the delivery of health care.

It should come as no surprise, then, that we should all be very concerned about the very real gender gap in healthcare. Less than optimal use of the talent of women physicians create enormous barriers that sap the medical system of its most important resources. But what is more troubling is that we — all Americans, not just women, are suffering for this abuse.

It’s time for us to start asking — and getting answers to — the tough questions. Are some of the nation’s best doctors being kept out or driven out simply because they are women? Are medical students more likely to pursue certain fields and specialties because of the guidance of their (more often male) mentors? Is the allocation of funds and intellectual resources being decided by an unrepresentative group? Why do women have difficulty obtaining and pay more for individual health insurance than men? And on a personal level, is your unborn child less likely to get good pre-natal care because ob-gyn — a “female” field — has been deemed less important when research and programmatic dollars are allocated?

It is not a matter of if but how the gender gap in medicine directly affects you. This is not a woman’s issue but a public health issue. As patients, mothers, and colleagues, we can no longer squander our precious, limited and already beleaguered healthcare resources. If the social issue is not motivation enough, let’s talk money. According to the World Economic Forum, social progress (e.g. women’s rights and economic status) and economic growth (necessary to sustain societies) are highly linked. And this link may just be the silver bullet to penetrate the current ennui that surrounds gender equity.

So here’s the hook! Everyone understands that being competitive in today’s world is important because it is linked to one common denominator we all agree is important — money. Bottom line is that if we don’t pay attention to women as valuable human resources and as the majority of consumers from the largest economic sector in our economy, we will ultimately fall behind in our abilities to compete. The danger of a healthcare gender gap resounds not only in our health and healthcare system, but also in the economic growth and stability of our society as a whole. This link is unequivocally stated in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competiveness Report, and I quote “Efficient labor markets must also ensure the best use of available talent — which includes equity in the business environment between women and men”. I firmly believe we need to address this fact as part of healthcare reform.

If it isn’t education, and it isn’t rising through the ranks, and litigation alone won’t solve the problem, what can we do? Here are but a few of my suggestions. First, let’s start by empowering already existing governmental institutions. In Ruth O’Brien’s Telling Stories out of Court, Liza Featherstone’s introduction informed me that the EEOC, that governmental agency which oversees issues of discrimination, is not as fully empowered as the other “quasi-legal” federal agencies. It has no authority to monitor much less to police, punish and thereby curb our rather large gender gap. This can and must be changed!

We need to shift the responsibility for abiding by the law onto employers who have found ever more clever ways to circumvent these laws we assiduously try to enact to gain equality. I am looking to partner with those of you who have the skills and drive to create a private sector oversight group for workplace gender equity modeled after the impactful work to improve hospital quality by the Joint Commission.

And while we still have to rely primarily on legal remedies, we must develop alternatives to litigation, such as mandated mediation. We must relieve the financial burdens on the litigant, and insist on full disclosure and careful monitoring against abuses by the legal profession. Retaliation, particularly with willful intent must be punished immediately in close proximity to the damage, and severely so as to truly protect the litigant.

In closing, I hope my story has given you some food for thought. I continued on the litigant’s path because I thought I could make a difference and because the status quo was and frankly still is unacceptable. Along the way I learned about a new face of gender discrimination. It’s one that we must confront and overcome before our children’s children enter this world.

Thank you!

EVENT
UUP, Buffalo Chapter, Committee on Women
LECTURE
University of Buffalo, Student Union
SPEECH
Perspectives on Gender Equity at UB: A Report from Dr. Linda Brodsky
 
Dr. Brodsky was asked to consult, to inspire and to build momentum for change in light of increasing concerns backed by persuasive data that the university may have a significant problem in their promotions process for women. Future directions relating to salary parity, appointments to leadership positions and the overall chilly climate for women faculty on campus were also discussed.
 
EVENT
Sisterhood Shabbat and Dinner of the Sisterhood
LOCATION
Temple Beth Tzedek
SPEECH
JUSTICE, JUSTICE SHALL YOU PURSUE?
A Personal Journey Through the Legal Labyrinth of Gender Discrimination
 
Dr. Linda Brodsky Greenfield was the guest speaker at the annual Sisterhood Shabbat and Dinner of the Sisterhood of Temple Beth Tzedek on Friday, January 29th. Her speech was titled “Justice, Justice, Thou Shall Pursue — A Personal Journey Through the Legal Labyrinth of Gender Discrimination.”
Read the speech below or download entire speech

Thank you, Carolyn, and my sincerest thanks to the sisterhood for giving me the honor to speak at our annual Sisterhood Shabbat Dinner. Before I begin I would like to thank our own Rabbi Steven Conn and Rabbi Moshe Taub of YI both for helping me with some of my discussion tonight. I hope that I do their wisdom and insights the "justice” they deserve. I also want to thank my husband Saul Greenfield, my three children, Jeremy, Dana and Becca, my friends and of course my legal counsel, Sam Shapiro, Elisha Burkart and most of all Janet Gunner, for sticking with me and pulling me through this ordeal.

In Parshat Shofetim, which we read several months ago, we are commanded by God, Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof — Justice, justice thou shall pursue. The word Tzedek is repeated twice and this repetition is the topic of much discussion amongst The Rabbis. One explanation that resonated with me is given by Ibn Ezra who states that the repetition of this word teaches us that we must pursue justice, whether we personally profit or we incur losses and that whatever the outcome, we must continue to pursue justice time and again. This is not a choice, but a commandment and is considered one of the "three feet of the world” — justice, truth and peace. Thus the pursuit of justice is one of the cornerstones of Jewish identity and is therefore to be taken very seriously.

But while we are a people of laws, we are also a people of the book, and this book, our Torah is filled with the stories of our forefathers and mothers. It is through these stories on this stage of human drama that we are given divine insights into the complexities of the choices and their repercussions that everyone of us makes as we each proceed through life in our own unique way.

In the next 15-20 minutes, I want to share my personal journey through what only can be called the daunting legal labyrinth of gender discrimination. At the end I hope I will have answered 2 questions with which I have wrestled throughout the process and even today. These are:

  1. When faced with the knowledge of perceived injustice, as a Jew, did I have a choice in speaking out? Should I have remained silent? Could I have remained silent?

  2. When one does choose to speak up, and then is faced with severe consequences, are there lessons from Torah to help overcome this distress and thereby bring peace to one’s life?

As many of you know, I am a practicing pediatric otolaryngologist, (in the vernacular that’s an ENT surgeon for kids). And until this year, I was a tenured, Full Professor of Otolaryngology and Pediatrics and the Director of Pediatric Otolaryngology at the Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. These "employment relationships” (as the career I poured my heart and soul into is called in legal documents) came to an end after I completed a long and arduous journey as a plaintiff in several Federal Court lawsuits claiming gender based discrimination and equal pay act violations against my employers, two large and very powerful institutions.

During my 25 year career as a physician, educator and researcher, I have given hundreds of lectures and have had the opportunity to present my work throughout the world. Usually I speak using slides filled with science, hypotheses, data and conclusions. Today is different because this evening first I am going to share some of my life experiences that shaped my beliefs about gender roles, about my dreams, and about my achievements, and then I will speak about the harsh awakening and the cutting hurt when I believed that I was a victim of injustice and discrimination. I am also going to speak a bit about what happened during the years of litigation and about the positive, active steps I am now taking to confront and overcome that hurt.

A typical first born, I became a highly successful high school student — editor of the school newspaper, secretary of student council, member of the elite women’s athletic club, and participant in numerous other activities. I learned to juggle, to compartmentalize, to multi-task, to be a "team” player — all essential skills for any woman who seeks a career in science and medicine. In 1970, I graduated high school and entered Bryn Mawr College, during the height of the second wave of the women’s movement. At Bryn Mawr it was said, "Our failures ONLY marry.”

Fully engaged in this spirit, I had to find a way to make my mark on the world. I applied to medical school and wisely chose to go to the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Our class was 50% women and unlike most medical schools at the time — and regretfully even today — we were fortunate to have many women deans and professors to serve as mentors and role models. I saw many women who were valued leaders and participants.

At the end of my third year surgery clerkship, I knew that my personality, drive, and robust energy level, were best suited for a life in surgery. I loved fixing things, the fast pace, the palpable gratification. I chose ENT. After my interview at Albert Einstein, I knew I had found my place.

Dr. Robert Ruben, the chair at Einstein interviewed me on a cold December morning. His face lit up when he discovered I had gone to Bryn Mawr, and he immediately launched into an enthusiastic appraisal of the wonderful education his daughter Anne was receiving there. Aha! I thought, the old girl’s network at work!

The Bronx was a great place to train. Without the present limitations placed on resident work hours, we were there day and night. Dr. Ruben made time for research and my best friend and fellow resident and I published a paper that won a prestigious prize for our work. I had also married and we had our first born when I was a chief resident. I thought that I was living proof that women could have it all.

I left the Bronx thinking that I could do anything, and I was ready for any challenge.

We arrived in Buffalo, New York in 1983, and I took a faculty position as a pediatric otolaryngologist at the State University medical school and at the Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. In retrospect, I now realize that as a woman, I was treated differently from the moment I arrived. But sheltered from my years at Bryn Mawr, the Women’s Medical College, and Einstein discrimination was inconceivable to me in those early years.

At first I received no compensation from the hospital or university, except income from my clinical practice, but when I later saw that others (all males) received compensation from both the University and the hospital, I requested and only then did I receive what I was told was the "usual” stipend for a surgeon from the university (funny how they’d forgot to mention when they hired me that there was a "usual” stipend).

However, with Dr. Ruben’s long distance mentorship, I rapidly advanced my research, obtained grants, and participated in teaching and administrative service locally and nationally. My practice grew and soon I was one of the busiest surgeons at the hospital; I was also the only woman surgeon at the hospital.

In 1990, I earned tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor, the first woman in the medical school to achieve that rank in a surgical field. But soon my professional life radically changed — my former chair retired and a new chair was chosen. Our relationship was very difficult. I was harassed both in my work environment and in my personal life. As never before, I was demeaned and berated for my "style” and "inability to be a team player” — typical complaints about women who dare to achieve in a man’s world. Yet interestingly, through this all the quality and quantity of my work and my leadership capabilities were never in question.

Funding to sustain our academic programs came from the income I earned from caring for patients. At work, I was literally working two jobs — taking care of thousands of children each year, and fuelling the academic and administrative programs for the university and hospital.

Despite my chair’s attempts to stall me, in 1996 I was promoted by my peers and the administration at all levels of the university to the rank of full professor of ORL and pediatrics, one of only about 12 women nationally in ORL who had ever achieved this highest rank of full professor.

A year later, the chair lost his NYS license to practice medicine for patient care issues and was fired from the chair’s job. Of the nine members of our department, I was the only professor and the only person with the seniority, qualifications and experience to run an academic department. I was shocked they chose a non-university, non-academic otolaryngologist, a male, as interim chair. I protested and was informed by the new Dean that he had "no baggage” but that I could apply the permanent chair job. But once the initial shock of rejection receded, I thought, well, if I only worked harder, I would get what I wanted. Two subsequent, seminal events woke me up from my fantasy that gender equality really existed and that I would be afforded the career opportunity towards which I had worked for the past 18 years.

With the change in leadership we were required to undergo a residency program review. Having no experience in these matters, the new interim chair requested my guidance and help. Documentation of sources of faculty funding are part of the review and it was then that I learned that a recently hired male ENT faculty member with lower rank, no seniority and fewer responsibilities was being compensated by the university at twice my salary — yes, two-times what I was then being compensated by the university. Never mind my professorship and 14 years of service! As I dug deeper, I also learned that my male colleagues at the hospital, who had less seniority and fewer responsibilities, were compensated by the hospital as much as 5 times as was I , even though by then I had been administrative head of one of the busiest clinical services for more than a decade.

The second wake-up call came when the job description for the permanent chair was published. Their requirements that the position be filled only by a "head and neck oncologic” surgeon were so narrow that they precluded me (and almost every woman academic otolaryngologist in the country) from applying for the position.

I spent the next 2-3 years trying to resolve these issues informally and internally. During that time my only reward was escalating harassment and retaliation. What should I do? Should I remain silent? Should I risk my status, my tenure, my practice, my reputation?

There are key figures in the Torah, when faced with seemingly great injustices, remain silent. There are two biblical Hebrew words for silence, "Yishtok and yidom”. The word Yidom is particularly interesting because it is only used twice in the 5 books — and one of those times is when Aaron was silent after his sons were killed by God because they did not heed God’s directions. It is often assumed that Aaron was silent because he had faith in God, but that may not be the case. Some Rabbis teach that one is allowed to be silent just because one just does not know the answer to a situation or question. Or one can "choose” to be silent. When one chooses to be silent it is because we want to question God. When we choose to be silent, we choose to accept the injustice, since the actions of God are unfathomable. But under ordinary circumstances, when we are questioning the injustices perpetrated by our fellow human, then we may have no choice. We cannot remain silent because we know the answer and it is not a matter of questioning God.

Also, from Leviticus chapter 19, verse 16, Lo Ta-amod al dam rayehchah, ani adonai, "Do not stand idly by the blood of your fellow”. There is an obligation to do something when someone else is in danger. This includes unfair treatment of yourself, especially if you know there are others who are facing the same unfair and ultimately and potentially dangerous treatment.

Thus faced with my knowledge of this employment situation, which by now I knew was not affecting only me, and having exhausted the internal avenues for resolution, I felt it was time to get help, to take a stand, to find an attorney. In 2000 and 2001, we filed seven charges with the EEOC; eighteen months later we had our seven "right to sue” letters and in September, 2001, we filed our first claim in federal court.

How did I cope? My lawsuit became my fourth child and my newest challenge. I learned everything I could about gender discrimination, especially at these two institutions. I was astounded to learn that the university had studied the status of their women since 1987 and that not only did our taxpayer-supported state university have a definable history of gender disparity, but also — by their own admission in documents as late as 1999 — that they had studied it, admitted to it and admitted that they failed to correct it! Often I thought I did not have the strength to go on. During these past 8 years I have had to file at least 5 additional EEOC charges, 4 claims in federal court, I was in the NYS supreme court 3 times, the court of appeals twice and a party to at least 5 union grievances against the university, one of which was highly successful and of which I am very proud, as it resulted in a pay increase to all clinical faculty at all four SUNY medical schools costing the state an additional $8-12 million yearly. This "correction” in the interpretation of the negotiated contract between the university and the faculty was particularly beneficial to women, who more often received lower salaries. And although retaliation is reputedly unlawful, during this time, I would claim more than 50 separate incidents of retaliation, including my being fired as head of pediatric ENT at the Children’s Hospital after 20 years of service.

I reviewed 40,000 pages of discovery documents, dealt with expert witnesses and data consultants, and attended or read more than 30 depositions. I constantly worried about how I was going to do all of this and still have time for my family, my work, my friends, and myself. The emotional toll was compounded the enormous economic toll.

But in 2007 and 2008, I settled with the University — this is a public document. The hospital and I "resolved our differences to the satisfaction of all parties” on both federal claims. The parties have chosen to keep the terms of the resolution confidential.

A triumph? I am not so sure. By this time my national reputation had suffered. I had been branded a troublemaker. I was marginalized, demeaned, ignored, demoralized, and often felt very alone. When I began the lawsuit, I was not prepared for how much my life would change. But I continued on the litigant’s path because I thought I could make a difference and because the status quo was and frankly still is unacceptable.

But I soon learned that I was not so alone. Women physicians and scientists from all over the country began to contact me with their stories after they had heard of mine. They had heard I could help, that I was a "trail blazer”. Some of these women were in very early stages of their careers — medical students, residents, and junior faculty — others were established and successful. I started to counsel, to advocate and then to organize. Only by sharing in the stories of these other women did I begin to see a new light at the end of the tunnel.

Now I find myself channeling what could have been crippling, demoralizing and depressing into helping individuals and organizations overcome gender discrimination. The fight for gender equity is far from over — as my experiences show — and in my opinion it appears to be getting worse. As I listen to so many women’s stories of injustice, I am convinced that equality will never be realized as long as the victim has to police the system, be the whistleblower and then spend an average of ten years navigating a complicated legal system at great personal and financial cost.

How do I live with the ravages of my litigation? Let’s turn to the story of Pinchas. God tells the leaders of Israel to publicly impale the ringleaders who have attached themselves to Baal-peor, a crime against the Lord. Then one of the Israelites transgresses and brings a Midianite woman into the community. Pinchas stabs both of them, the Isrealite and the woman, through the belly, and the plague against the Israelites was checked.

Pinchas commits this gruesome act because he believes he is following God’s instructions. And for this God granted to Pinchas one of the four Brits (that is covenants) granted to the Jewish people--the Brit Shalom. This is the inner peace for standing up for what he truly believed was right.

What is relevant to my journey is that while the Israelite leadership knew what to do, they failed to act. It is Pinchas who challenges both the unlawful behavior of Zimri, the Israelite chieftan and the unwillingness of Isreal’s leaders to enforce God’s severe decree. Since 1964 laws against gender discrimination and equal pay for equal work have been "on the books”. Like Pinchas, I really believed I had no choice but to confront the fact that I believed that these laws were widely and openly being broken.

Now I am committed to mentoring, advocating and creating additional channels to help women, especially women physicians, overcome years of institutionalized bias and outright discrimination. Shining a light on their stories and helping each one to speak out against these injustices is important if we are going to move forward.

This evening I have spoken about my journey, my triumphs, my frustrations, my failures and my future. In closing, I would like to share with you a few of the many lessons I have learned. First, the legal labyrinth is a very difficult and dangerous journey. It needs to be changed. I propose better oversight and prevention of injustice as essential. Retroactive legal remedies will never change the status quo, and are too costly to individuals and to society. Second, widespread gender discrimination is unfortunately alive and well. It has a new face. Instead of "women need not apply”, we are told that we "don’t fit in, have baggage, or have an unsuitable "style”. This new approach has been labeled "gender stereotyping”, and is a more focused lens through which we can view these hazards. Third, and finally, 3) breaking through these barriers is critical because of individuals like me and the many others — your daughters and granddaughters, sisters, wives, and mothers — who are facing this problem. Frankly, it is also critical because it is our public health that is at stake. 50% of physicians will soon be women. If these women are not allowed to realize their full potential, the health and well-being of our entire society is headed for a dangerously unhealthy future.

So to conclude, as Jews, we have a long tradition and an obligation to speak out against injustice, and our silence is not warranted. Sometimes we need the passion of Pinchas who when faced with a difficult situation, took drastic action. Of course, not every injustice requires drastic action; and not everyone has the multitude of internal and external resources necessary to embark on a difficult, draining, and dangerous journey. But I do believe that everyone of us in this room, has opportunities everyday to bring greater justice to this world (in small ways or large), to choose not to remain silent, to pursue justice and, thereby to share in the brit shalom, the inner peace of your convictions for doing the right thing. Thank you and Shabbat Shalom.

EVENT
AAUW Women’s Luncheon
LOCATION
Union League, New York, NY
SPEECH
The AAUW women’s luncheon served to educate editors from major national women's publications on how far women still have to go in order to achieve full equity. Lilly Ledbetter, lead plaintiff in Ledbetter v. Goodyear, presented her story to personally illustrate the pay gap that most women still experience. Linda Brodsky, M.D. spoke about the challenges women face in higher education — especially in sciences, technology, engineering and math.
Read the speech below or download entire speech
PREPARED BY
Linda Brodsky, MD, FACS, FAAP

My name is Linda Brodsky, and I am a practicing pediatric otolaryngologist, (ENT surgeon for kids). And until this year, I was a tenured, Full Professor of Otolaryngology and Pediatrics and Director of Pediatric Otolaryngology at the Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. These "employment relationships” (as the career I poured my heart and soul into is referred to in legal documents) came to an end after I completed a long and arduous journey as a plaintiff in a Federal Court lawsuit claiming gender based discrimination and equal pay act violations against these two large and very powerful institutions.

During my 25 year career as a physician, educator and researcher, I have given hundreds of lectures and have had the opportunity to present my work all over the world. Usually I speak using slides filled with science, hypotheses, data and conclusions. Today is different. Today I am going to share some of my life experiences that shaped my beliefs about gender roles, about my dreams, and about my achievements, and then about the harsh awakening and the cutting hurt when I believed myself to be a victim of injustice and discrimination. I am also going to speak about the positive, active steps I am taking to confront and overcome that hurt.

A typical first born, I became a highly successful high school student—editor of the school newspaper, secretary of student council, member of the elite women’s athletic club, and participant in numerous other activities. I learned to juggle, to compartmentalize, to multi-task, to be a "team” player—all essential skills for any woman who seeks a career in science and medicine. In 1970, I graduated high school and entered Bryn Mawr college, during the height of the second wave of the women’s movement. At Bryn Mawr it was said, "Our failures ONLY marry.”

Fully engaged in this spirit, I had to find a way to make my mark on the world. I applied to medical school and wisely chose to go to the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Our class was 50% women and unlike most medical schools at the time—and regretfully even today—we were fortunate to have many women deans and professors to serve as mentors and role models; women were valued leaders and participants. At the end of my third year surgery clerkship, I knew that my personality, drive, and robust energy level, were best suited for a life in surgery. I loved fixing things, the fast pace, the palpable gratification. I chose ENT. After my interview at Albert Einstein, I knew I had found my place.

Dr. Robert Ruben, the chair at Einstein interviewed me on a cold December morning. His face lit up when he discovered I had gone to Bryn Mawr, and he immediately launched into an enthusiastic appraisal of the wonderful education his daughter Anne was receiving there. Aha!, I thought, the old girl’s network at work!

The Bronx was a great place to train. Dr. Ruben made time for research, and with my best friend and fellow resident and I published a paper that won a prestigious prize for our work. I had also married and I had my first born when I was a chief resident. I was living proof that women could have it all.

I left the Bronx thinking that I could do anything, and I was ready for any challenge.

We arrived in Buffalo, New York in 1983, and I took a faculty position as a pediatric otolaryngologist at the State University medical school and at the Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. In retrospect, I now realize that as a woman, I was treated differently from the moment I arrived. But sheltered from my years at Bryn Mawr, the Women’s Medical College, and Einstein, discrimination was inconceivable to me in those early years.

At first I received no compensation except income from my clinical practice, but when I later saw that others (all males) received additional compensation from both the University and the hospital, I requested and only then did I receive what I was told was the "usual” stipend for a surgeon from the university (funny how they’d forgot to mention when they hired me that there was a usual stipend).

With Dr. Ruben’s long distance mentorship, I rapidly advanced my research, obtained grants, and participated in teaching and administrative service locally and nationally. My practice grew and soon I was the busiest surgeon at the hospital; I was also the only woman surgeon at the hospital.

In 1990, I earned tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor, the first woman in the medical school to achieve that rank in a surgical field. But soon my professional life radically changed—my former chair retired and a new chair was chosen. Our relationship was very difficult. I was harassed both in my work and in my personal life. As never before, I was demeaned and berated for my "style” and "inability to be a team player”. Yet interestingly, through this all the quality and quantity of my work were never in question. Funding to sustain our academic programs came from the income I earned from caring for patients. I was literally working two jobs.

Despite my chair’s attempts to stall me, in 1996 I was promoted by my peers and the administration at all levels of the university to the rank of full professor of ORL and pediatrics, one of only about 12 women nationally in ORL who had ever achieved this highest rank of tenured full professor.

A year later, the chair lost his NYS license to practice medicine for patient care issues and was fired from the chair’s job. Of the nine members of our department, I was the only professor and the only person with the seniority, qualifications and experience to run an academic department. I was shocked when they chose a non-university, non-academic otolaryngologist, a male, as interim chair. I protested and was informed by the new Dean that he had "no baggage” but that I could apply for the permanent chair job. I was confused, hurt, and becoming very angry. I knew I had earned what I saw was the summit of my career. Once the initial shock of rejection receded, I thought, well, if I only worked harder, I would get what I wanted. Two subsequent, seminal events woke me up from my fantasy that gender equality really existed and that I would be afforded the career opportunity towards which I had worked for the past 15 years.

With the change in leadership we underwent a residency program review. Having no experience in these matters, the new interim chair requested my guidance and help. Documentation of sources of faculty funding are part of the review and it was then that I learned that a recently hired male ENT faculty member with lower rank, no seniority and fewer responsibilities was being compensated by the university at twice my salary—yes, two-times what I was then being compensated by the university. Never mind my professorship and14 years of service! As I dug deeper, I also learned that my male colleagues at the hospital, who had less seniority and fewer responsibilities, were compensated by the hospital as much as 5 times as was I , even though by then I had been administrative head of one of the busiest clinical services for more than a decade.

The second wake-up call came when the job description for the permanent chair was published. Their requirements that the position be filled only by a "head and neck oncologic” surgeon were so narrow that they precluded me (and almost every woman academic otolaryngologist in the country) from applying for the position.

I spent the next 2-3 years trying to resolve these issues informally and internally. During that time my only reward was escalating harassment and retaliation. It was time to get help, to take a stand, to find an attorney. In 2000 and 2001, we filed seven charges with the EEOC; eighteen months later we had our seven "right to sue” letters and in September, 2001, we filed our first claim in federal court.

How did I cope? My lawsuit became my fourth child and my next challenge. I learned everything I could about gender discrimination, especially at these two institutions. I was astounded to learn that the university had studied the status of their women since 1987 and that not only did our taxpayer-supported state university have a definable history of gender disparity, but also—by their own admission in documents as late as 1999—that they had studied it, admitted to it and admitted that they failed to correct it!

During these past 12 years I have had to file at least 5 additional EEOC charges, 4 claims in federal court, I was in the NYS supreme court 3 times, the court of appeals twice and a party to at least 5 union grievances against the university, one of which resulted in a pay increase to all clinical faculty at all four SUNY medical schools costing the state an additional $8-12 million yearly. This correction in the interpretation of the negotiated contract was particularly beneficial to women, who more often received lower salaries. And although retaliation is reputedly unlawful, I would claim more than 50 separate incidents of retaliation, including my being fired as head of pediatric ENT at the Children’s Hospital after 20 years of service.

I reviewed over 40,000 pages of discovery documents, dealt with numerous expert witnesses and data consultants, and attended or read more than 30 depositions taken in 5 states. I constantly worried about how I was going to do all of this and still have time for my family, my work, my friends, and myself. The emotional toll was compounded the enormous economic toll.

In 2007, I settled with the University—this is a public document. In 2007 and 2008 the hospital and I "resolved our differences to the satisfaction of all parties” on both federal claims. The parties have chosen to keep the terms of these resolutions confidential.

A triumph? I am not so sure. By this time my national reputation had suffered. I had been branded a troublemaker. I was marginalized, demeaned, ignored, demoralized, and very alone. When I began the lawsuit, I was not prepared for how much my life would change. But I continued on the litigant’s path because I thought I could make a difference and because the status quo was and is unacceptable.

But I soon learned that I was not so alone. Women physicians and scientists from all over the country began to contact me with their stories after they had heard of mine. They had heard I could help, some called me a "trail blazer”. Some of these women were in very early stages of their careers—medical students, residents, and junior faculty—others were established and successful. I started to counsel, to advocate and then to organize. Only by sharing in the stories of these other women did I begin to see a new light at the end of the tunnel.

Now I find myself channeling what could have been crippling, demoralizing and depressing into helping individuals and organizations overcome gender discrimination. The fight for gender equity is far from over—as my experiences show— and in my opinion it appears to be getting worse, as more women are beginning to speak up. As I listen to so many women’s stories of injustice, I am convinced that equality will never be realized as long as the victim has to police the system, be the whistleblower and then spend an average of ten years navigating a complicated legal system at great personal and financial cost.

During my incredible journey, I learned about an exceptional organization—the AAUW—whose Legal Advocacy Fund gave me a welcome "shot in the arm” just as my spirits were flagging during my own battles. Now I am committed not only to working with them to reach our shared goals so that the educational achievements for women are not then devalued once they reach the workplace, but also to creating additional channels to help women overcome years of institutionalized bias.

Today I have spoken about my journey, my triumphs, my frustrations, my failures and my future. In closing, I would like to share with you just three of the many lessons I have learned.

  1. The legal labyrinth needs change—oversight and prevention are essential. Retroactive legal remedies will not be enough.


  2. Active gender discrimination is unfortunately alive and well. It has a new face. Instead of "women need not apply”, we are told that we "don’t fit in, have baggage, or have an unsuitable "style”.

    And,


  3. breaking through these barriers is critical not only because of individuals like me and the many others who are facing this problem so early in their careers, but also because it is our public health that is at stake. 50% of the medical work force will soon be women. If these women are cannot realize their full potential, the health and well-being of our entire society is headed for a dangerously unhealthy future.

EVENT
Tribute to Bob Ruben
Read the speech below or download entire speech

A few weeks ago, I asked Bob, “What should we call this party? After all, you aren’t retiring. A ‘stepping down’ party? A ‘moving up’ party?” As unusual as it might seem, Bob did not have an answer to this seemingly benign question and told me with great sincerity and in all seriousness that he was moving into a new phase of his life. He was finally going to be doing what he really wanted to do all along—pure science.

I, a former resident, a present disciple, colleague, and friend, was both baffled and shocked. Thirty-three years of service as chair, tens of thousands of patients treated, hundreds of committee meetings attended, countless decision made, and more than 150 otolaryngologists trained. I asked in utter disbelief about all of this to which he replied, “Oh, it was all important, and I did it with all the creativity and energy, thought and passion I could, but now I am looking forward to doing science full time.”

Our conversation went on to something else but Bob’s words stayed with me. I realized that maybe he had never truly realized what a profound effect he has had on so many of us. Well, then maybe we should tell him. And then maybe he would know that he should leave this portion of his career with at least some regret.

So I want to take just a few more moments to tell a little bit about the side of Bob Ruben that most of the people here have never known.

It was December 1978 when I first met Bob, then known to me as “Dr. Ruben.” During my interview for a residency position, we were in his office at what is now known as the Wyler Hospital. He had a pipe in his mouth and talked with great speed which made understanding him somewhat difficult. (Listening to Bob talk is one of those skills that you developed as a resident running up and down the many flights of stairs. Often it was a game of “fill in the blanks.”) Anyway, it wasn’t but 10 minutes into the conversation that he excitedly shared with me that his daughter Ann also went to Bryn Mawr, my alma mater, and in the same breath told me that if I wanted to have a child during residency, it would be no problem. Not even engaged to be married yet, I protested. He just answered with a smile, “Oh, you will be by the time you come here, of that I am sure.” And as I was soon to learn, you don’t argue with Bob. He was right, as he usually was about such things. I had my first child as a chief resident 16 years ago. This was the first of many ways through which I learned that Bob was prescient and always ahead of his time. The support he has given to the women and minority faculty and residents is still unmatched by anyone anywhere I know.

Then there was the infamous Room 301, Van Etten Hall, where every Monday at 5 pm Dr. Ruben would make rounds. We saw all of the patients together, and then he would pick three for us to discuss. Somehow he always knew which ones were the most problematic for the residents. We would then retire to Room 301 where the inquisition would begin. Chief resident and first-years alike would hope that no questions would be asked of him or her. These seemed to be the highlight of Bob’s week, but as you can guess, not of ours!

And in between the rounds, the lab work, and the never ending series of meetings, Bob was traveling to testify on Capitol Hill, attend an international meeting of this society or that congress, or present a keynote speech or a paper somewhere in the world. Saturday morning rounds could have you calling Helsinki, Japan or California, always at 7 am EST. Did he ever sleep? We surely didn’t. For some reason I no longer recall, once, and only once, I remember hesitatingly asking if I could call him two hours later. Totally unexpectedly I got a positive answer, but never had the courage to ask again. A sacred ritual cannot be tampered with too often.

But when all was said and done, what I knew he did best was to care for people—mostly little people, the helpless, sometimes the hopeless, and often, the poor. Whether it was a premature baby at Jacobi Hospital who had to fight to breathe, a family of a newly diagnosed deaf child who drove from Englewood, New Jersey, to confer with Dr. Isabelle Rapin and him, or a child who had ear tubes placed to correct a hearing loss, his thoughtfulness and compassion were apparent to all and appreciated by all. Each was treated with respect; all were given the best he had in him. From Dr. Ruben, from you, Bob, we learned to think critically and to act compassionately.

I know I have spoken for most of the otolaryngologists who have had the privilege to train under Dr. Robert J. Ruben. On a more personal note, on behalf of my family and me, I want to thank Bob for his oft-sought, very useful advice, never ending support, freely given friendship and much appreciated collegiality that have allowed me (and many others) to grow and contribute. The credit for what we have done belongs to him as well. We owe you a debt for teaching us those important lessons that are not found in textbooks, but are only found in the hearts and souls of the truly great who have both the courage and generosity to share with the rest of the world.

So, what shall we call this party? How about a well-deserved tribute to someone who has changed the world for the better and will, God willing, continue to do so in the next phase of his remarkable life?


home|about|speaking engagements|ebook|resources|gallery|news + press|contact
Copyright © Linda Brodsky MD. 2009 | Site designed by Channel V Media