Women of WISMAC

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, women in science and medicine face unique challenges in the workplace, including gender equity and inequities in compensation and career advancement. The Association’s State of Women in Academic Medicine report from 2018 indicates that the overall proportion of full-time female faculty in the U.S. has continued to rise since 2009, now at 41%, with similar increases at each faculty rank. Despite the increase, the report shows that women are not advancing in their careers at the same rate as men. Women make up a majority of faculty only at the instructor rank, and they hold only 18% of all department chair positions.

Co-chaired by Carole Mendelson, Ph.D., and Sharon Reimold, M.D., the Women in Science and Medicine Advisory Committee (WISMAC) is dedicated to empowering the next generation of female physicians and scientists to become strong leaders and realize their full potential.

Southwestern Medical Foundation is honored to support the continuing success and impact of WISMAC and its worthy mission. The magnetism of Drs. Carole Mendelson and Sharon Reimold is truly remarkable, and their leadership gives a strong and powerful voice to support the needs and concerns of women in all stages of their careers. WISMAC inspires women to create the highest vision possible for themselves and thrive in their chosen professions in science and medicine.

Kathleen M. Gibson, President and CEO of Southwestern Medical Foundation

The value of mentors

Dr. Mendelson learned early in her career about the importance of working in a supportive environment. She spent several years at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) during the mid-seventies, a time when research was flourishing.

“The NIH was a very interactive environment and an exciting place to do research,” she said. “I met many phenomenal scientists, attended outstanding educational seminars, and had mentors who were interested in my career. The experience fueled my passion for research and created opportunities for me to advance elsewhere.”

Dr. Mendelson came to UT Southwestern as a postdoctoral fellow, and in 1978, she joined the faculty through the encouragement and support from a faculty mentor. Today, she is professor in the Departments of Biochemistry and Obstetrics-Gynecology.

I never thought I would find an environment that was satisfying after doing research at the NIH, but when I came to UTSW, I was blown away. The UTSW environment is collaborative and interactive, and it is where I developed my career and shaped my research. As a woman, it is important to have female role models within an institution who support you, as well as a supportive male faculty. The founding of WISMAC on campus was a significant step to creating positive change for women.

Carole Mendelson, Ph.D.
Carole Mendelson, Ph.D., Dianna Milewicz, M.D., Ph.D., and Kathleen M. Gibson at a Visiting Professorship at UT Southwestern in 2014

WISMAC impact

WISMAC champions for women in science and medicine, and the committee collaborates on many projects with the Office of Women’s Careers, a full-time office that supports career advancement for women at UTSW. Access to quality childcare is a vital first step for women with children who work, and one of WISMAC’s earliest accomplishments was founding two childcare centers on campus and later adding an afterschool childcare program and childcare for sick children.

WISMAC extends the annual Ida M. Green Distinguished Visiting Professorship to an outstanding female scientist or physician who is invited to UTSW to give a lecture to faculty and trainees. WISMAC also awards the annual Ida M. Green Award to a female student in the UTSW Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, recognizing the selected student’s scientific accomplishments and commitment to the UTSW community.

“The Women in Science and Medicine Advisory Committee at UT Southwestern does a great job of promoting women role models,” said Dr. Bishakha Mona, recipient of the 2019 Ida M. Green Award. “They foster an environment of growth and inclusivity, providing inspiration to the next generation of women in science. I feel grateful to have found amazing female mentors at UT Southwestern who have inculcated my love for knowledge and the wisdom to utilize it to help people around me.”

Additionally, WISMAC has created space on campus for nursing mothers; developed mentoring and networking programs; improved campus safety; provided travel awards for students, postdoc trainees, and faculty; created the Science Teacher Access to Resources at Southwestern (STARS) program to support science teachers and female students in the community; and sponsored receptions and symposia on various topics of career development.

Inspiring strong leadership

Dr. Mendelson has enjoyed a fulfilling career at UT Southwestern, where her research is focused on reproductive and perinatal biology. She is grateful that WISMAC has given her the chance to inspire, empower, and connect with other women in all areas of science and medicine.

I always try to put emphasis on helping women where that is possible, whether it is through my leadership positions in WISMAC or in national and international professional organizations. I look outward and try to make the environment better for others coming behind me and surrounding me. I want to be helpful and engaging and somewhat of a role model for others to advance their own scientific and leadership reputation.

Carole Mendelson, Ph.D.

She believes the UTSW environment supports aspiring women and sets a great example for others.

“There aren’t many institutions in the U.S. that have active organizations like WISMAC and the Office of Women’s Careers. When female faculty from other institutions come to UTSW, they see what we have done through WISMAC and can take our example for the advancement of women back to their own institutions,” said Dr. Mendelson.

Inspired by Ida M. Green

The Ida M. Green Distinguished Visiting Professorship Honoring Women in Science and Medicine was established by Southwestern Medical Foundation to honor the wife of Texas Instruments co-founder Cecil H. Green. The Greens, who have both passed, were leading philanthropists who supported a host of scientific institutions around the world. Mrs. Green was a visionary and great supporter of opening career paths for women in science and medicine and provided a major bequest to the Foundation, which is applied to the Professorship. Her legacy will shine bright for generations to come.