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Women in Medicine Spotlight: Brenessa Lindeman

Brenessa Lindeman, MD, shares advice and reflects on what has inspired and challenged her as a woman in medicine.Brenessa Lindeman

What is your name, title, and department?

I’m Brenessa Lindeman, assistant professor of Surgery and Medical Education. I also have the privilege of serving as our associate designated institutional official (DIO) for the Clinical Learning Environment in our Graduate Medical Education Office.

Where did you receive your medical degree?

I attended the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine then trained in general surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, followed by a fellowship in endocrine surgery at Harvard/Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Why did you decide to get into medicine?

I think like most people, I desired to marry my love of science with a passion for serving other people. Medicine fit that perfectly. It was when I was in medical school that I realized I could integrate my love for educating others by being an academic physician.

What is your leading charge or project here at UAB or a favorite project you worked on at UAB?

In my role as associate DIO for the Clinical Learning Environment, my primary charge is enhancing the clinical learning environment for all of our residents and fellows across the institution. The things we have been working on most recently have been focused on resident well-being, specifically looking at the work environment of our trainees through an annual survey, as well as providing them access to the Well-Being Index. We’ve also recently instituted a subcommittee as part of our Dean’s Council for Graduate Medical Education that focuses just on well-being, as well as an officer of the House Staff Council, and we hope to bring a wellness space that is dedicated to resident and fellow training in the coming years.

What would you say to a young woman who aspires to be a physician or surgeon?

To any young woman out there who wants to be a physician or surgeon in the future, I would say go for it and don’t give up on your dream. The road to becoming a physician can be long, but the steps are very well-defined, and there is an increasing number of women, in particular, who have traveled that route, and the majority of us want to help others follow in these footsteps. So the most important thing you can do is find a mentor to help guide you through the process. Following your passion will lead you to not only have a great career, but one in which your work is filled with joy.

What are some of the struggles you face as a woman in medicine?

Women in medicine today face many challenges, and some are different from what our predecessors faced. I certainly am very fortunate to be able to follow the well-worn path of many women who became surgeons before me, but we still have work to do. There remains a gap in pay between genders that is independent of work effort or other variables that we can control. There also remains a disparity in publication rates and promotion rates for women, such that many women physicians remain in the lower ranks at their employers, whereas men occupy leadership positions across academic medicine. I think we also continue to struggle for parity with childcare and child rearing, and women shoulder the greatest burden of those. All of these factors contribute to ongoing challenges for women, but I feel confident that with the leadership here at UAB and across the country, we are slowly chipping away and making progress on these issues.

Do you have a strong female mentor, and, if so, how does she encourage you in your practice?

I have the benefit of having many mentors, several of whom are women. I think it’s important to note that women do not have to be mentored exclusively by other women. It’s important to have a committee of mentors who can advise you in different facets of your career that are important for development. I am very fortunate to have had many strong women in positions of leadership early on in my education and training who inspired me to take on the roles that I have today.

Why is it valuable to have a female mentor?

Having a strong female mentor has been important to me because she has walked the path before me. Whenever I am facing something and wondering if this a challenge that I‘m having just because I’m a woman, she can serve as a sounding board to provide sage advice to help me determine how I might need to recalibrate or reframe the situation to better address what I’m going through.

To watch more of Dr. Lindeman’s story and learn what has inspired and challenged her as a woman in medicine, click here.