O’Toole co-edits book on women in pediatrics

Book covers how women have been pivotal in the specialty

Jennifer O’Toole, MD, professor in the University of Cincinnati departments of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics in the College of Medicine, is co-editor of the just-released book “Women in Pediatrics: The Past, Present and Future.” The book, published by Springer, is the first to provide an overarching view of women in pediatrics, the challenges they have faced, the successes achieved and what the future holds.

“I have lovingly been referring to this book as ‘my baby,’” O’Toole says. “Finally seeing it out in print after watching our amazing contributing authors create such outstanding content has left me in awe of what were able to accomplish, and I’m inspired for the future.”

O’Toole has worked with two co-editors and a team of 30 contributors since March 2021 to create the 208-page book. Co-editor Nancy Spector, MD, executive director of the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine® (ELAM) program and professor of pediatrics at Drexel University College of Medicine, originally had been invited by Springer to produce the book. She asked O’Toole and Barbara Overholser, director of stakeholder engagement and communications for the ELAM program, to join her in the project as co-editors.

Spector has been a mentor to O’Toole, and the pair have worked together for more than a decade on various research and national projects. Most recently, they were part of  group to launch and grow ADVANCE PHM, an effort to provide advancement, equity and leadership for women in pediatric hospital medicine. O’Toole currently serves as chair of the ADVANCE PHM steering committee and Spector is a steering committee member.

“I jumped at it,” O’Toole says of the offer to work on the book. “Given my interest in elevating women in medicine and promoting gender equity, this couldn’t have been any sweeter of an opportunity.”

cover of book

Jennifer O'Toole, MD, professor in the departments of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, is co-editor of "Women in Pediatrics: The Past, Present and Future."

O’Toole wants readers of the book to understand that the contributions of women who practice pediatrics have been tremendous during the past century. Women have been pivotal in the specialty’s clinical, research, educational and advocacy efforts and have helped shape the course of the specialty. She notes that pediatrics is in a very unique position to change the course of history.

“As a specialty that prides itself on promoting prevention, cultivating longstanding relationships and supporting the health and well-being of children and their families, there is no better group to lead the way in charting a new course for women in medicine than pediatrics. If a specialty that is predominantly women and prides itself in supporting women as mothers and caregivers cannot achieve this goal, who can? In a post-pandemic world, this work is more important than ever, and pediatrics must lead the way and create a standard for the rest of medicine to follow,” she says.

“However, this cannot be accomplished solely by women in the field,” O’Toole adds. “We need men to step up, acknowledge the bias and discrimination women face, and use their power, influence and position to help create a more equitable workplace for women in the specialty.”

O’Toole is not certain why a book like “Women in Pediatrics” has never been produced previously. Perhaps, in the past, no one ever actually wondered about the plight of women in pediatrics since women hold the large majority in the specialty, she says.

“Despite that, we still face inequity, discrimination and barriers. We are finally at a place that we are ready to dig into those issues and think about solutions. We have been examining and evaluating inequities in medicine unlike we have ever done before. The past few years has been an enlightening period for all those in medicine,” says O’Toole, who also serves as program director of the Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Residency program and program director of the IMSTAR (Internal Medicine Scholars Training for Academic Research) Medical Education Fellowship program.

The book includes three sections, first with a history of women in pediatrics. The second section looks at the current state of women in pediatrics including leadership, women of color, women in research, gender equity, childbearing, adoption, motherhood and eldercare by women in pediatrics. The third section discusses the future of women in pediatrics, including policies and programs to advance equity, allies in gender equity efforts, research, funding and publication for women, networking, mentorship, sponsorship, coaching, and career development activities, and supporting the health and wellbeing of women in pediatrics.

O’Toole and her co-editors wrote three chapters, “Stories of Early Leaders/Early Days of Women in Pediatrics,” “Networking Mentorship, Sponsorship, Coaching and Career Development Activities to Support Women in Pediatrics” and the book’s conclusion “Women in Pediatrics.” Five College of Medicine faculty were contributors to the book: Tina Cheng, MD, B.K. Rachford Memorial Chair in Pediatrics and chief medical officer at Cincinnati Children’s; Lou Edje, MD, associate dean for graduate medical education and professor in the departments of Family and Community Medicine and Medical Education; and Yemisi Jones, MD, assistant professor, Kelsey Logan, MD, professor, and Samir Shah, MD, professor, all in the Department of Pediatrics.

“I am so proud that when we created our contributing authorship teams for each chapter we focused on creating diverse teams that were for the most part comprised of folks early in their career paired with very senior leaders in pediatrics or other specialties,” O’Toole says. “It is our hope that these parings would allow for future mentoring and sponsorship opportunities for these teams. In fact, we are already seeing some really neat collaborations.”

Lead photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand