Be the change you want to see.

What empowers a girl to go into health care? Is it a life event, a role model, or some innate need to do good? All of those factors plus some?

I knew I wanted to be a psychologist when I was 11 years old. The tipping point  was in 6th grade when I was hauled down to the guidance office to see Dr. Moe, a school guidance counselor. A man. He was so clueless to my situation: divorced parents –  which was a shameful and unusual event back then; a sadistic math teacher; and my extreme shyness. Gripping the seat of the chair in his office, I thought: “I could so do much better than this.”

Oh, maybe one of my former clinical supervisors would call this an “identification with the aggressor“ – where my anxiety or anger was so intense that I unconsciously channeled it to be the presumed helper.

But no. I was fully aware. I knew I was a better listener. I had grit. I had a fighting spirit. I knew I could change something, even though I was confused at the time and unsure of what exactly that might be. Call it intuition.

Live with Intention

Fast forward a few decades: a PhD, a clinical practice, a mom of two teenage girls, and the birth of a health start-up, called BodiMojo. It’s XX in Health Week and a great time to reflect on women in healthcare, and how we can change the world. What I didn’t know back then was that I’d channel my grit to being a health entrepreneur and evangelist for the health of our kids; that I’d invent something for teens and with teens that could boost their self-confidence and help them take control of their health. Nope. Had no idea back then. And now I am surrounded this summer with a group of young female interns, ages 15 to 26, who also want to do something about the health of their generation.

Courage, Commitment, Care

Lisa Suennen recently wrote a wonderful rant piece about the lack of women leaders in health and the dismal stats.  She also noted the power of women not only as leaders but as consumers and change agents. Similarly, the Boston Globe featured a piece this weekend on the Power of Moms. They are not a group to piss off.  Moms will do anything for the health and safety of their children. Why is it that most health care ignores this very large market segment in their leadership and their marketing?

Lisa Suennen also noted that when it comes to putting girl power in the top leadership positions that “it will take decades to make a quantum change in this situation if history is any judge.”  Maybe so, but I remain hopeful that this generation of young women can be the change we want to see. Clearly, there needs to be a major culture shift in healthcare on so many levels.

It will take time.  Yet, it is our role as women in health to use our intuition, smarts, and fighting spirit to see women advance, to be entrepreneurial, and to be, well, ballsy.

Sometimes I think women are just too smart to subscribe to a high powered job just to give up so many things that really matter in life – family , friends, joy, play creativity, work-life balance.  Not for nothing, but if the bottom line in healthcare is solely about dollars and not about impacting real human lives, one might just think twice. This is not to be controversial. Women can be anything they want to be. But there are too many barriers in most corporations to make it worth it for many, and so few corporations have woken up to the fact that having women in leadership is better for ROI. A culture shift? Yes. Courage? That, too. Girlfriends in health fields, what do you want for yourselves?

If I think about the topmost regret of people at the end of their lives documented by Bonnie Ware, it makes me want to fight for our young women even more:

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

They get it. Let’s show them the way.

With this sentiment I showed the XX in Healthcare inspirational video by Rock Health with Annie who is 15. She created one of our first “AskAGirl” video spots on just what qualities our young women identify with.


Tara Cousineau, PhD, is founder of BodiMojo.com for teenagers.

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