O’Toole named AAMC women’s leadership award recipient

Second consecutive year a UC faculty member receives the honor

For the second consecutive year, a College of Medicine faculty member has been named the recipient of the Emerging Leadership Award for an Individual from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Group on Women in Medicine and Science (GWIMS). Jennifer O’Toole, MD, professor in the departments of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine, and program director of the Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Residency Program, is the 2021 recipient of the honor.

Last year, Heather Christensen, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Medical Education, was the award winner.

The award honors O’Toole, who also holds a Master’s of Education in curriculum and instruction, for her work in contributing to women’s advancement and gender equity, mentoring and sponsoring women to become leaders, influencing other leaders in the recruitment, retention and promotion of women and improving the educational and professional environment for sustaining women in academic medicine and science.

“There is a lot of energy around gender equity and promoting women in medicine at the College of Medicine. We have very active WIMS organizations at both the college and Cincinnati Children’s that are full of smart, passionate and innovative women and men who are actively working to make our academic health center a more equitable and friendlier place, regardless of one’s gender identity,” O’Toole says. “I want to see the work of this group continue to flourish and spread. Strong leadership support and resources to help advance change will be critical for our success moving forward.”

O’Toole, who is also program director for the IMSTAR (Internal Medicine Scholars Training for Academic Research) Medical Education Fellowship within the Department of Internal Medicine, was nominated for the award by Leslie Applegate, MD, assistant professor, Danielle Clark, MD, assistant professor, and Eric Warm, MD, Richard W. and Sue P. Vilter Professor of Medicine, in the Department of Internal Medicine, and Ben Kinnear, MD, associate professor, and Danielle Weber, MD, assistant professor, Department of Pediatrics.

Her nominators praised O’Toole’s strong efforts to mentor junior faculty and residents. They also noted her extensive advocacy for women through her involvement with local and national groups and how she leads by example.

“She does not simply talk about gender equity; she takes action to promote and create gender equity. Dr. O’Toole has taught countless of our male faculty members how to be more effective allies, helping our male faculty members grow into better mentors and sponsors for women at our institution,” her colleagues wrote in their nomination letter.

O’Toole is the founding chair of the steering committee for ADVANCE PHM, a national organization that promotes the advancement of women and gender equity in pediatric hospital medicine. The organization last week held its inaugural symposium, “Achieving Gender Equity in Hospital Medicine Through Allyship: We Can’t Do It Alone,” which was chaired by O’Toole.

“Women have been doing work in the space of gender equity for years. We will never be able to move the needle until we engage male allies. This symposium was trying to reach out to those allies and give them the skills and tools to make a difference,” O’Toole says.

O’Toole also serves as co-president of the Cincinnati Children’s WIMS Organization, leading efforts to explore equitable pay, promotion standards and evaluation practices.

“She builds everyone up around her and is always looking to make those around her a success. She asks the tough questions and pushes everyone to think bigger. She is the type of leader people aspire to be and paves the path for more women in medicine to believe they can be a leader like her,” her nominators wrote.

O’Toole’s leadership also was crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately affected women in academic medicine. This was highlighted in a paper titled “Collateral Damage: How COVID-19 Is Adversely Impacting Women Physicians,” which she coauthored and appeared in the August 2020 issue of The Journal of Hospital Medicine.

“Receiving this award is a huge, huge honor,” O’Toole says. “This has provided even more fuel for my passion of promoting gender equity in medicine. There is a lot of energy nationally, here locally at the college and Children’s, and in my specialty of Hospital Medicine around efforts to achieve gender equity in medicine, so this award has given me a boost to keep moving forward with this work.”

O’Toole will be celebrated by AAMC GWIMS during a virtual celebration Nov. 5.

Featured image by Colleen Kelley.