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Women in Medicine Spotlight: Rachel Fargason, MD

Dr. Rachel FargasonRachel Fargason, MD, shares advice and reflects on what has inspired and challenged her as a woman in medicine.

What is your name, title, and department?

I am Rachel Fargason, and I am the vice chair of Clinical Affairs in the Department of Psychiatry.

Where did you attend medical school?

I went to the University of Maryland in Baltimore, graduating when I was 25 years old.

Why did you decide to get into medicine?

I thought medicine was the best profession in the world. It combined scientific inquiry with spending time with people. I think it’s a very noble profession, and you get to make a difference in people’s lives at very vulnerable times. That makes it very enjoyable.

What is your leading charge at UAB?

The focus of much of my attention right now is expanding the services available for patients with psychiatric and addiction disorders. Nationally, there is an increase in suicide rates, and we’re in the midst of an opioid and drug abuse crisis. One of the charges of UAB Health System is to take care of our safety net population. I feel an important aspect of my job is to increase the care and services available to patients with psychiatric and addiction issues.

Do you feel that being a woman helps you in your job?

I do feel that being a woman has helped me a great deal with my job. When you’re working at a complex health system, you must have good communication and team-based skills so that you can work together with others to effect change. Being able to work well with others has enabled me to partner with other disciplines and administrative leaders in the health system to drive improvements in psychiatric and addictive care services.

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

I would tell a young woman who aspires to be a physician or surgeon to do it. It is the best profession on Earth. It provides flexibility, and at different times in your career you will utilize a wide range of skills.

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

One of the struggles I have faced is that some of the strengths women bring to the table, such as passion and engagement, can be perceived as aggression at times.

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

I have had several strong male mentors, but I do have one very strong female mentor who is my predecessor in my role, and she has been both an ongoing coach and mentor for me. She is principled and has a strong commitment to the underserved population. She has strength, resilience, and a good dose of common sense, along with a great sense of humor. When the going gets tough, we can always have a laugh, and we can accomplish a lot together.

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