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Women in Medicine Spotlight: Kerri Bevis

Kerri Bevis, MD, shares advice and reflects on what has inspired and challenged her as a woman in medicine.

What is your name, title, and department at UAB?Kerri Bevis, MD

I am Kerri Bevis, and I am a gynecologic oncologist and residency program director in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Where did you attend medical school?

I went to medical school here at UAB, which I’m very, very proud of.

Why did you decide to get into medicine?

My ultimate decision to pursue medicine really came from my experience as a patient. When I was in college, I experienced a lower back injury playing soccer, and the road to recovery was much longer than I had anticipated. My appreciation of all the work and care that my physicians and physical therapists provided made my decision to go into medicine easy in the end.

What is your leading charge at UAB?

There are two things that are most exciting for me. The first is being program director for the OB/GYN residents. Being so active in helping these young physicians develop into the best women’s health providers they can be is very challenging yet gratifying. The second thing that really excites me is the opportunity I’ve had to participate in the development of the Advanced Communication Training Institute that UAB is implementing. As an early-career faculty member, I found myself increasingly frustrated because as an oncology provider I would have extremely challenging conversations with patients – challenging emotionally and intellectually – and I just knew there had to be a better way. My efforts to improve my own skills in challenging conversations led me to recognize it as a passion of mine. We don’t often teach physicians how to do it, yet it is integral to everything we do – no matter how much we know or how good we are at diagnosing or treating patients. If we can do all of those things brilliantly but can’t communicate back to the patient effectively, then we dilute the excellent medical care we provide.                                                                                                                                    

Do you feel that being a woman helps you in your job?

I am convinced that it does. First of all, as a gynecologist, it kind of gives you “street cred” with patients. That’s not to say that males can’t do just as good a job, but when the patient walks in and feels as if she can identify with her physician, it can make a difference. I think it also helps in my role as a residency program director. That maternal instinct is extremely valuable, guiding them but also helping them establish their own independence.

What would you say to a young woman who aspires to become a physician or surgeon?

I would say go for it. The path is not easy, and certainly there will be challenges, but things worth doing usually are not easy, so that shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your aspirations and reaching for your dreams.

What are some struggles you have faced as a woman in medicine?

I think the absolute biggest struggle in being a female physician is just getting it all done. I don’t think there is anything unique about it. It’s just having a full workload at the hospital and at home and trying to find the energy to be fully present when I am focusing on my patients and residents and equally present when I’m with my kids, my husband, and doing things outside of the hospital. The hours are certainly one component of that, but I think the bigger challenge is just the emotional energy and stamina it takes to really be engaged in those activities. You can spend a lot more time doing something and it is far less rewarding if you’re not able to be emotionally and mentally present. That’s where I think wellness and good habits come in. That’s where your internal barometer for how you’re doing really makes a big difference. It tells you when you need to back off, because your ability to engage is not quite what it needs to be.

Do you have a strong female mentor, and, if so, how has she encouraged you in your practice?
My strongest female influence is Dr. Cheri Canon, who is the chair of the UAB Department of Radiology. She and I met years ago when I was president of the House Staff Council. When I joined the faculty, she really took me under her wing and made sure that several times a year we had the opportunity to sit down and talk about how things were going. She has been a tremendous sounding board and someone I know I can reach out to if I need career advice or just advice on keeping it all together. She has been a tireless champion for women in medicine. I am not one of her faculty and I am not in her department, but I consider myself fortunate to have been able to reap the benefits of her experience, wisdom, and tireless devotion to the advancement of women in medicine.

 

To watch more of Dr. Bevis’s story and learn what has inspired and challenged her as a woman in medicine, click here.