Lessons Learned After a 14-Year Hiatus

After completing her mini-fellowship, Hamman passed her board exams and re-certified as a pediatric radiologist. She joined Michigan Medicine in August 2019 and was promoted to clinical assistant professor of radiology in March 2021.

“I feel like a brand new doctor,” says Hamman. “I feel more part of not only my practice, but also the direction of the department. I can participate in research and education. ”

Hamman took up the challenge of returning as a champion, says Vikas Gulani, MD, Ph.D., chair of the Radiology Department at Michigan Medicine.

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“During the fourteen-year hiatus, she had tremendous and diverse experiences in life,” says Gulani. “She has an admirable, optimistic outlook and I have not heard her complain once. Michigan Radiology is lucky enough to have her as a member of our faculty. “

Work life balance

In this second period, Hamman’s children are older – out of the “fluid management” and carpooling phase, and are less dependent on mother for managing daily activities. While it’s easier for her to focus on work, she notes, it throws a bigger spotlight on a systemic problem.

“For me and many doctors, much of our personal identity is embedded in our professional identity,” explains Hamman. “The fact that it is so difficult to integrate as a parent and practice medicine is, I think, not at all unique to me.”

SEE ALSO: Mothers on the Front Line

Hamman’s husband continued to work as a cardiothoracic surgeon after she became a full-time parent. However, for doctors like Amber Liles, MD, MPH, that was not possible.

“Some people have a partner who comes in and makes up for the difference,” said Liles, an interventional radiology fellow at Michigan Medicine. “In my case, my husband and I were both medical students when I had our first child, so the only way we could do that was with significant help from our families.”

Liles’s in-laws lived with her and her husband for years. But after leaving Oklahoma for Michigan, the couple eventually lost that support system, and she knows that a lot of people don’t have one to begin with.

“We’ve really struggled for the past five years, and I think the current medical system has a long way to go when it comes to supporting doctors and their families,” said Liles. “There are also many cultural issues that lead many of us to believe, perhaps erroneously, that you cannot call in sick or that family emergencies are not a thing.”

Despite these issues, both Liles and Hamman say their experiences as working mothers have made them better doctors, which is why they want to make it better for working parents.

“I sometimes wonder how much more I could have done if I hadn’t had children, but as a parent I’ve become more efficient,” says Liles. “My interactions with patients have changed because of who I am as a mother, so I don’t regret it at all.”

Hamman is not advising others to leave as she did, but her reasoning is the driving force behind her current research.

Productive conversations about tackling the balance problem are taking place at Michigan Medicine, but the whole traditional medicine model needs to place more value on people’s unique stories, she says.

“I think we would have a better health care system if the lived experiences of health professionals and their backgrounds were truly accepted and appreciated, and if we were encouraged to engage with our patients on that basis,” Hamman said. “There is still more work to be done.”

Paper cited: “The Long and Winding Career Path: Lessons Learned”, Pediatric Radiology. DOI: 10.1007 / s00247-020-04799-7

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