December 19, 2023

Rhodes named president of the UAB Chapter of the American Medical Women's Association

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leslie rhodes copyLeslie Rhodes, M.D., associate professor in the Division of Pediatric Cardiology, has been named the next president of UAB's chapter of the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA), facilitated by the Heersink School of Medicine Office for Diversity and Inclusion.

AMWA is an organization committed to advancing women in medicine and improving women's health. Through membership, women physicians, residents, medical students, pre-medical students, and health care professionals advocate for women's health and ensure excellence in health care. UAB's chapter aligns with the national goals and mission by offering live programs, mentorship, networking events, and presentations.

Meet Leslie Rhodes, M.D.

Rhodes, who is passionate about exploring issues facing women in medicine as well as in society, is also the program director of the Pediatric Cardiac Critical Care Fellowship Program. She serves as part of the leadership council for the Alliance for Women's Empowerment through Pediatric Cardiac Critical Care.

She completed her residency at UAB, a fellowship at Vanderbilt University in Pediatric Critical Care, and then returned to UAB for additional fellowships in Pediatric Critical Care and Pediatric Cardiac Critical Care, completed in 2015. She has been on the faculty at Heersink School of Medicine since.

When asked what excites her about leading AMWA, Rhodes says, "The women whom I met through my medical career have gotten me through difficult times, both personally and professionally. There is a unique bond and understanding that develops through the shared experiences and difficulties that we face, which are specific to women."

Rhodes says as she has advanced in her career, she's realized that her experiences motivate her to be a better doctor and colleague and drive her to help women start their own career paths.

"Recently, I have been very fortunate to be a part of groups exploring the issues facing women in medicine as well as in society," Rhodes explains. "These include Momentum leaders at UAB and an international woman's alliance group through my field. I have learned so much from these women and these experiences, and I hope to share this knowledge with the group here at UAB."

The road to becoming a physician and leader

Rhodes says that she has wanted to be a doctor ever since she can remember. A caretaker at heart, she is excited by the stimulating environment to learn new things. "I also love the opportunity to care for patients and improve their lives," she explains.

When asked what advice she would give her younger self, Rhodes says her younger self was more of a people pleaser. "I thought that making everyone around me happy equated to being a good person, and I often sacrificed myself for other people's benefit. Through many mistakes and difficult times, I learned that standing up for myself and the things I needed not only made me a better doctor, but it also made me a better friend and mother."

Rhodes says she tries to instill in her daughter a strong sense of self "while also being kind and considerate to others. Both things can be true."

Like others, Rhodes faced challenges along the way to her current role. She says the clinical aspect of medicine is very heavy in her role, so balancing research, advocacy, and education is important to her. "It took me creating space in my day to do the Momentum program to learn that I can step out of the clinical role and do something more with my career," she says.AMWA social 2

Part of the reason she felt called to lead AMWA is because of the many women who inspired her to get where she is today. "There is not a single person I can say inspired me because my career was affected, both through negative and positive experiences, by all the women I worked with and learned from."

"Throughout my career, I've met many successful and amazing women. Each one added to my knowledge and skill set as a doctor, and I will forever be indebted to them for that. On the flip side though, I witnessed them in quandaries, which I felt were partly related to their being a woman, but it was never openly discussed. I hope to build a community where women can reach out to each other regarding experiences and challenges, which they face partly due to their gender. I also hope to create a learning environment where tools are shared to empower them the next time they face these challenges."

Staying balanced and fulfilled

Rhodes says she has many accomplishments to be proud of and that her life has been full of both challenges and achievements, which have helped mold her into the person she is today.

"Throughout my training and my career, one thing I always strove for was to be a well-rounded person. We only get one chance at this life, and I did not want to spend it focused on one thing. I did not want to give up my health, friends, family, hobbies, non-medical education, etc. for a single medical career, and I have been very conscious of keeping this balance in my life. Of course, I can get off balance, but mostly I have been able to grow in my career while also taking time to focus on other important parts of my life. This is something I want to help share with AMWA. We can be good doctors and good colleagues while also taking care of ourselves and our relationships."

Join UAB's AMWA Chapter

Rhodes leans into the AMWA vision statement to summarize why women in medicine and science might be interested in joining the organization: "A healthier world where women physicians achieve equity in the medical profession and realize their full potential."

Rhodes explains that 70% of the global health and social care workforce is women, yet only 25% of leaders in this group are women.

"Additionally, in 2022, there was a 26% pay gap between male and female physicians, which is approximately $110,000 annually. This is even when controlling for specialty, location, and years of experience. Although there are many explanations regarding these alarming statistics, a goal of AMWA is to help share the tools and knowledge to improve this gap, as much as we can, through education and mentoring."

For women in medicine and science considering joining UAB's chapter, Rhodes says, "There is no reason not to join!"

AMWA social 3Participate as little or as much as you want, she explains. AMWA at UAB aims to facilitate knowledge and tools to help women throughout their careers.

"We will be conducting monthly meetings over Zoom, which will be easy to attend. Additionally, on a more personal level, we hope to create a mentoring system between interested members."

Rhodes also hopes to start some smaller interest groups to encourage more personal collaboration and relationships.

Attend a Meet and Greet

The Heersink School of Medicine Office for Diversity and Inclusion invites women in medicine and science to attend the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA) reception on Jan. 10, 2024 for a chance to meet with Rhodes and network with other women. RSVP here.