Women Physicians - Overcoming outdated stereotypes

St Francis Kansas

Locations: St. Francis
Community Engagement Dept: RHES
Program: Kansas Bridging Plan
Kansas Recruitment and Retention Center

Overcoming stereotypes women face as physicians can be challenging, but two rural Kansas women have risen to the challenge together, running the Cheyenne County Clinic in St. Francis.

Mary Beth Miller, MD, and Rebecca Allard, MD each attended the University of Kansas School of Medicine and graduated from the Smoky Hill Family Medicine Residency Program, whose residents gain experience in rural medicine. Dr. Miller ran the Cheyenne County Clinic for nine years before Dr. Allard joined her after she graduated from the residency program in 2007. 

Bruce Birchell, Administrator, CEO Today, both doctors work around 60 hours each on a good week. That can go up to as many as 100 hours for a busy week when the hospital is full.

Dr. Allard says, as females it’s hard to break out of the stereotypes some people have for physicians. Some feel a doctor is a "man’s job," because in the past many doctors were male. However, with the high demand for health care in rural areas and an increase in female physicians, those patients have adapted over time.

“When I first got here, I did feel the older men in the rural area didn’t look at me as a doctor because I was female,” said Dr. Miller.

She says not many patients called her “doctor” when she first started. They referred to her as “Ms. Miller,” while they called her physician assistant, who was male, “doctor.”

Dr. Allard had it a little easier when she started because the community was used to a female doctor by then. However, she said it can still be challenging at times convincing some of the men to see a female physician.

Both Dr. Allard and Dr. Miller’s family-lives are extremely important to them, and it can be a hard balance when working in the medical field. Still, Dr. Allard says she makes it a point to not take work home. She and her husband enjoy trap-shooting when they get the opportunity and Dr. Allard goes horse-back riding with her daughter.

Dr. Miller has three children and before Dr. Allard started at Cheyenne County Clinic, Dr. Miller was the sole physician for nine years. Though she said it did take some away from her family and it would have been easier if she had had a partner, she still found time to be with her children. She has enjoyed being involved in her children’s sports activities and is a faithful KU Jayhawk fan.

“It’s important to have a family relationship so we try to do a lot together,” said Dr. Miller.

Dr. Allard says it’s hard on the husbands as well. Many times female physicians are primary source of income for their household. Most men of this generation grew up feeling they had to be the breadwinner. Many husbands are stepping up and taking the role of child care provider and homemaker.

Both physicians feel there are advantages to being female physicians as well. Dr. Allard feels women have more empathy toward their patients. Women are by nature more nurturing and so it just makes sense. Dr. Miller feels women are better multi-taskers and take their time. She feels women physicians can look at the whole picture and really listen to and talk with their patients. Also female physicians give women the opportunity of seeing a female physician for their yearly exams. Many female patients feel more comfortable when they know their physician can relate.

The role of a female physician is getting easier as more women enter the field, but Dr. Allard says it’s important to have the support of friends and family.

“It’s a hard row to hoe, and it’s a difficult road if you don’t have a good support system,” said Dr. Allard.

Dr. Allard took part in the Kansas Bridging Plan (KBP) and Kansas Recruitment Center (KRC). Physicians who participate in the Kansas Bridging Plan agree to practice medicine full-time in a self-selected rural community for 36 continuous months upon completion of their primary care training program in exchange for loan forgiveness. The Kansas Recruitment Center (KRC), a statewide program assists health care providers in finding the right practice opportunity in Kansas. KRC works closely with Kansas communities to provide comprehensive recruitment and retention services.

Last modified: Apr 15, 2014