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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Women, the medical field welcomes you!

Rika Kayama

Recently, the news of a university medical department's discriminatory practice of deducting points from the entrance exams of female applicants has caused quite a stir. As the university in question happens to be my alma mater, my heart aches each time I hear the name in the news and in other media.

My own matriculation was 37 years ago, and about 20 percent of my cohort were also women, all driven with a sense of purpose. Among them were women so diligent in their studies, that when tests came around, male students begged to borrow their notes -- to the snickers of the teachers who learned of such requests.

At the time, there was not an inkling of a sense that "female students are undesirable," and there were some professors who believed, "We have the same number of male and female patients, so why shouldn't half of all physicians be women?" I heard that after my time in medical school, the proportion of female students had increased further, so I was completely shocked when I heard about the discriminatory entrance exam. I was truly disappointed. I would like the university to quickly clarify all the issues, rectify the situation, while offering apologies and compensation to the students involved, and begin moving toward renewal.

There seems to have been talk that "female doctors quit work in the middle of their careers," but when I think of my classmates, each one of them is still very much involved in the medical field. One of my female classmates became a professor in the medical department, and another has worked as the head of a clinic while raising her three children. There is also a network for female physicians, and I myself am indebted to it each day, whether it is about how to deal with patients or other matters.

Still, it is certain that work in the field of medicine up until now has been too grueling, working a day shift into the next shift alone without someone else coming in to take over, going to meetings both in the early morning and late at night... Not only female doctors, but also many male doctors are seeking treatment for exhaustion or depression stemming from overwork.

This style of working goes against the changing times, which encourage men to be actively involved in child-rearing and housework. We cannot change everything that is wrong with the system all at once, but both men and women have to at least share the understanding that "things cannot go on like this," and aim for a working environment where they can take care of both themselves and their families while doing their jobs.

However, while we are certainly in need of improvements, I can't help think that as a whole, "I'm glad I chose to work in the medical field." For me, who has been in this profession for over 30 years, I want to say this to teen girls from the bottom of my heart.

In the world of medicine, from nurses, pharmacists, to physicians, there are so many different types of jobs. Each comes with its own difficulties, but each also has its purpose and challenges, and is work that allows one to grow greatly as a human being. That experience will most definitely prove helpful in child-rearing or whatever your life may bring you. Women of the world, the medical field welcomes you! Let's work together for our patients. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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