Screenshot 2023 02 24 at 11.10.50 AMCynthia Brumfield, M.D. broke barriers in the field of medicine when she became the first female chief of staff for UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. As a trailblazer in obstetrics and gynecology, Brumfield has also been recognized for her outstanding contributions to women's health.

Journey to becoming chief of staff at UAB

Brumfield's journey to becoming the first female chief of staff at UAB in 2006 is a testament to her hard work and dedication. She graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1978 and completed her residency at the University of Florida in 1982. After completing her fellowship at UAB, she joined the faculty and has been a professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN) for over 40 years.

“I became an OB/GYN physician because it was my favorite rotation as a medical student,” said Brumfield. “So many patients at that time told me that they would like to see a woman physician.”

Brumfield explained that female physicians were not common then. There were only 20 females in her medical school graduating class of 150 students in 1978, and there was only one female OB/GYN who taught her during her time in medical school.

“I was very fortunate when I was training, because my male co-residents and male faculty treated me as ‘one of the guys.’ Thus, they never impeded my training,” said Brumfield.

Brumfield explained she was the first woman hired on the OB/GYN faculty at UAB, and the only challenge she faced on the faculty was that she never had a female mentor to turn to for advice.

Throughout her career, Brumfield has been recognized for her outstanding contributions to women's health. She is board-certified in maternal-fetal medicine (MFM), and she has been on faculty at UAB OB/GYN for the entirety of her career. Now she serves primarily as a clinician-educator, but she has also done research in prenatal diagnosis, obstetrical ultrasound, and medical complications in pregnancy.

Her clinical duties predominantly involve performing and interpreting fetal ultrasound. She also provides prenatal care and deliveries for women with high-risk pregnancies. Her educational role involves teaching obstetric forceps and vacuum deliveries, overseeing the prenatal and delivery care provided by the OB/GYN residents and MFM fellows. She also gives didactic lectures regarding common pregnancy complications and fetal anomalies and their management.

Brumfield's leadership style

Brumfield's leadership style is centered around patient safety and quality of care. She believes that women have a unique perspective on health care and that their voices should be heard.

Prior to her role as chief of staff, Brumfield was the medical director for Labor and Delivery for 17 years. In 2002, she received a Master of Science in Health Administration from UAB. When the opening became available, Brumfield applied and was elected as chief of staff for the hospital.

“During my almost five years in that role, I learned a lot about our great hospital and all the systems in place that are needed to run it,” said Brumfield. “I emphasized patient safety and quality of care.”

Some notable accomplishments during her time in the role include requiring all staff physicians to become board-certified to maintain their staff positions, hiring physicians to begin focusing on hospital quality issues, and putting more senior physicians in-house at night to supervise intensive care unit (ICU) care. She also launched UAB's first rapid response team, called the Medical Emergency Team (MET).

“I think developing MET 16 years ago was my greatest accomplishment, because this team has literally saved hundreds of lives of hospitalized patients,” said Brumfield. “I still smile when I hear a nurse or physician say that ‘I need to call the MET team.’”

Advice for women in medicine

Brumfield has some advice for women who are pursuing careers in medicine. She believes that it is essential to find a mentor who can provide guidance and support throughout your career. She also advises women to be confident in their abilities and to speak up when they have something to say.

“My message for young women planning a career in medicine is to find a specialty that you thoroughly enjoy and to find a work environment that will allow you to enjoy your work and to flourish over your career,” said Brumfield. “If you are happy at work, it will have a positive impact on your personal life.”

Brumfield's appointment as the first female chief of staff for UAB is a significant milestone for women in medicine. It sends a message that women can succeed in leadership positions in medicine and make a significant impact in their field. Her appointment also provides a role model for young women who are pursuing careers in medicine.