I started working here in Washington as a pediatric hematologist/oncologist in the spring of 2015. Since moving here, I remember friends would ask me, so how’s it going? Have you made some friends yet? How many good friends do you have now? And I would answer, hmmm… I think maybe 2? 2.5?
My two good friends and I would try to get together for dinner or drinks when our work and call schedules aligned. Sometimes this would take us months to find one mutually convenient evening. And after 4 years of trying to coordinate our schedules- and usually failing- we finally decided to pick a standing dinner date each month instead and move our schedules around to make it work.
And then we had a thought, how about we invite some of our other colleagues to come join us? The three of us knew we worked with amazing women, but rarely had the chance to talk to or get to know them during our busy workdays. Maybe they would want to join us? Even just for a drink? We decided to invite all of the awesome women doctors who we wanted to get to know better. And make it a standing invitation to join us at our monthly dinner date whenever they could. And why not have a fun name?
Little did we know that our newly formed group, Cool Chicks in Medicine, and our standing monthly dinner dates, would rapidly grow from the three of us trying so hard to coordinate our schedules for dinner, into an ever growing group of now nearly 200 amazing women physicians, advanced practice providers, pharmacists, nurses and administrators across our children’s hospital and health system. Our group regularly connects monthly for dinners, paint & sip nights, book clubs, parties, and had planned a mindfulness and Dare to Lead retreat, StrengthsFinder workshop, spa day, escape room party, Pure Barre work out, group hike and picnic, BBQ and pool party in 2020. We now have a weekly virtual Zoom support, cocktail hour and bartending class during COVID-19 until we can come together again in person.
Female otters are known to come together to build a “raft of otters” to protect each other from stormy seas. And somewhere along the way, the Otter became our mascot, and “Cool Chicks in Medicine: We Support Each Otter!” became our motto. From our Cool Chicks group has sprouted our own American Medical Women’s Association branch and collaborations with other local women in medicine groups, our own blog and website, and the creation of our own fundraising guild.
What has been most powerful about our Cool Chicks community, though, has been the sense of community and solidarity each of us feels, as we walk the halls of our hospital, consult each other on patients, meet up for coffee, and sit next to and across from each other in meetings. The feeling of warmth and camaraderie is palpable, as is the feeling that we have each other’s back. When one of us speaks up in a meeting, we speak up and back her up. When one of us goes through a tough time, we band together to support her, both publicly and personally.
We have been delighted, not unsurprisingly, to discover how envious our male colleagues have become of our camaraderie, friendship and community. So much so, that we have created special events where everyone is invited, for all “Cool Chicks, Dudes and Family!” To us, this is a win-win. We have enriched all of our relationships and our sense of community- across gender, age, position and our hospital system.
The outpouring of gratitude from countless women, grateful for our Cool Chicks community and the opportunity to enrich their bonds and friendships with colleagues, has been more than reward enough for the at times herculean effort it has taken to coordinate dinners, events, Venmo payments and countless emails. My own experience with my Cool Chicks sisters has changed my life- and the trajectory and purpose of my life will never be the same. I have seen firsthand the incredible power of community, connection and sisterhood to transform not only our own experience of our work and personal lives, but that of countless others. And I have seen the power of our collective voices together to create positive and lasting change for women, our patients, our hospitals, and each other. I am motivated to support and empower all women in medicine everywhere, like never before.
I laugh now when people ask me about my friends at work. I laugh that I barely knew some of these women a year ago, and now several of them are in my Will- I’m not joking! Now if that is not a testament to the true power of friendship, peer support and sisterhood, I don’t know what is. Through Pink Coat, MD, we dream of creating the kind of community and friendship for all women in medicine everywhere that my colleagues, friends and I have been so lucky to create together. We know that all of our lives can be so enriched by each other, more than we think is possible.