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Women Who Lead
Julie A. Caffrey, DO ’08

Assistant Professor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Baltimore, Maryland

Headshot photograph of Julie A. Caffrey, DO '08“I’m an academic scientist and surgeon, and I’m accountable for all the requirements of being at a top care hospital—clinical, educational. And I’m a mom at home. You can outsource, and that’s the only way to make it work. ‘Mom guilt’ is indeed real, but our kids are so resilient and understanding that there’s no reason to put that on ourselves. ... You can’t say yes to everything. I work long days, 16-plus hours, but I don’t take work home with me. ... I remember reading a book in the PCOM library called The Woman in the Surgeon’s Body, by Joan Cassell, an anthropologist married to a male surgeon. Cassell described how some female surgeons were perceived as very masculine and others as weak. I’ve found that there is a sweet spot in the middle, where you’re seen as competent and pleasant to work with. We’re not taught in school that perception is key. Our biases stem from social biases that carry through into medicine and into the operating room. The bigger challenge is to change those perceptions—but you can navigate in a world where they are the case. ... At Hopkins we have a culture of ‘speak up, speak out.’ If something happens, we want to know about it. Often it’s a communication problem. What did you mean to say, and what did you say? ... It all comes down to human interaction and trust. I work in a burn center, which is multidisciplinary, and we promote the idea that everyone has a voice. ... I did feel a lack of mentorship at the beginning of my career, and that lack made me eager to mentor others. ... It’s OK to say, ‘You can have a baby during residency.’ It’s so helpful to say, ‘You can do it. I did it.’ ... There’s a private group of physician/moms out there on Facebook. Another resource, Women in Burns, is a grassroots group of 40 female surgeons trying to promote each other. Women need to promote each other in our profession. ... This year I gained a female mentor at Hopkins, Grace Rozycki [MD, MBA], a trauma surgeon. Grace will go through my CV and show me what areas I can improve upon to make myself recognized as a leader in the field. For example, she talked to me about giving grand round talks outside my institution. ... You can do the greatest work and have the best patient outcomes, but if no one knows, you’re never going to be the chair or the dean. There’s nothing wrong with promoting yourself. As women, we tend not to do that.”