Women Who Lead
Deborah A. Bren, DO ’84

President-elect, Lehigh Valley Health Network Medical Staff
Executive Vice Chair, Clinical Programs, LVPG Family Medicine
Clinical Assistant Professor, LVHN/University of South Florida Morsani School of Medicine
Allentown, Pennsylvania

Headshot photograph of Deborah A. Bren, DO ’84“Fortunately, I haven’t experienced gender bias or discrimination in my career. In college, I was privileged to play sports because of Title IX, so right off the bat I had been the recipient of someone else’s hard work. ... After graduating from PCOM I trained at a medium-size hospital in Allentown, and had planned to do a surgical residency. As a woman and DO I wanted to be at a larger institution, to benefit from the volume and see the full bandwidth of opportunities. A few weeks after I was accepted for the residency, they called me to ask if I wanted to start in January or July. They mentioned that the other candidate was married and had a child, so could he start first in July? That was fine with me, though they would have drawn straws if I preferred. ... So I had six months before residency and needed to work. I was told, ‘You’d be a great family doctor. Think about your quality of life as a surgeon!’ I ultimately turned down the surgical residency for one in family medicine, and I’ve never looked back. Now it’s been more than 30 years. ... At LVHN I’m the third female president-elect of the medical staff. There are women in our C-suite. ... We embrace our diverse culture. We have a cultural liaison who advocates for the clinicians, nurses, and the entire clerical and clinical teams as well as our patients. ... At national conferences, there’s a lot of talk about compensation. Many family medicine departments, academic or not, are struggling with going from fee-for-service to value-driven care; at the same time, nationwide, there’s a primary care shortage. A full-time family medicine clinician at LVHN is contracted to 36 patient-facing hours a week. Candidates may choose to come in at a lower full-time equivalent, but that’s not just women—it’s millennials too, both men and women. ... The med staff presidency job is a moving target of goals and objectives. Almost equal numbers of women and men sit on our compensation committee, and Professional Services uses an external resource to audit and ensure that we do not have gender inequity for our clinicians. ... One important opportunity is to positively impact burnout issues; electronic health records have certainly had an impact there. ... Each organization, each department, has its own issues. But everything starts with communication. I believe in including joy in every meeting and huddle. You came to this career for that; don’t leave it at home.”