Wednesday, October 30, 2019

I will remember you (Musings on gender in transfusion medicine)

Updated: 2 Nov. 2019

October's blog is short. The idea was initially stimulated by two 'from the archives' papers in TraQ (Further Reading). The topic of the papers was perceived gender discrimination by healthcare professionals. The initial purpose of October's blog was to get readers to assess if they perceived gender discrimination exists in their disciplines and workplaces.

After reflection, I decided to change the focus to highlighting how many great female physicians there are in transfusion medicine, many of whom I've been privileged to know personally. And, sad to report, one recently died. 

The title derives from a ditty sung by Canada's Sara McLachlan.

Historically, medicine has been male dominated, whereas both nursing and medical laboratory technology/science have been female dominated, at least in Canada. That's been my experience in transfusion medicine but it has changed significantly over the years, especially in transfusion medicine.

TIDBITS Since I moved to Edmonton in Nov. 1977 to teach in University of Alberta's Medical Laboratory Science to the present, Oct. 2019 (42 years), top jobs have been held by men: Medical Directors of UAH's Dept. Lab Medicine and Chairs of the Dept. of Lab Med and Pathol (Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta).

Individual UAH lab specialties have been held by women, including I am especially pleased to say the transfusion service, which is currently headed by one of my Med Lab Sci 'kids', who also holds higher regional positions. Across Canada, many female physicians hold significant transfusion medicine positions.  

Nurses vs physicians remains an ongoing saga and perhaps sometimes it's just about power, not gender. Suspect it gets more dicey when scope of practice is involved, which also adds pharmacists to the mix.

Canada's blood suppliers are a mixed bag. CBS had had a male CEO from the get-go, though many female physicians are CBS medical directors across Canada. Héma-Québec began with a female CEO. Parts of CBS are male top-heavy

Over the years I've seen female transfusion Drs. bullied by what I perceived as pompous male colleagues in rounds and at conferences. As the cliché goes, women must be way better than male colleagues to succeed. Is it still true?

Transfusion medicine is blessed with many exemplary female physicians in top positions. Some examples of ones I've known personally and met F2F (alphabetical order):
Interesting that so many of these Canadian female transfusion medicine docs have held major positions (as above) and won awards. To name a few: 
  • CSTM Ortho award recipients:
    • 2002, Francine Décary (CEO of H-QISBT President 2004-6)
    • 2007, Heather Hume (Executive medical director, CBS)
    • 2010, Susan Nahirniak (Chair of NAC)
    • 2013, Debra Lane, Medical  Director of CBS's only joint transfusion service/ blood supplier in Canada)
    • 2014, Lucinda Whitman (Chair of NAC)
Of course, Canada has many outstanding female transfusion medicine Drs. I've never met F2F but know via social media like Twitter or via e-mail. Ex:
  • Dr. Jeannie Callum (who kindly contributed to CSTM blog on Ana Lima )
  • Dr. Yulia Lin: CSTM Ortho award recipient, 2016; 2019 AABB President's Award, 'In recognition of her role as a master educator in the field of transfusion medicine, particularly through her contributions to the education of junior doctors through the Transfusion Camp program.'
  • Dr. Elianna Saidenberg who died far too young on Oct. 20, 2019 (Further Reading) 
Special note on Elianna Saidenberg, Never met her except via her tweets, and she kindly liked many of mine.Thought she was a wonderful human being as I suspect did all who knew her up close or from afar. Clearly, Dr. Saidenberg made a difference in her all too short time on planet earth. Twitter remembers Elianna

So...what do you think? Does your country have many fabulous female transfusion medicine physicians as Canada does. Is gender an issue in transfusion medicine, whether related to physicians, nurses, medical laboratory technologists?

I've chosen Canadian Sarah McLachlan's song for this blog, one I've used before:

I will remember you 
will remember you, will you remember me? 
Don't let your life pass you by 
Weep not for the memories.
As always, comments are most welcome and there are several below you may enjoy. 

In Memoriam: Dr Elianna Saidenberg (21 Oct. 2019)

Blau G, Tatum D. Correlates of perceived gender discrimination for female versus male medical technologists. Sex roles 2000 Jul;43(1):105-18. | Related:

Blau G, Tatum DS, Ward-Cook K, Dobria L, McCoy K. Testing for time-based correlates of perceived gender discrimination. J Allied Health. 2005 Fall;34(3):130-7.

Shannon G, Jansen M, Williams K, Cáceres C, Motta A, Odhiambo A, et al. Gender equality in science, medicine, and global health: where are we at and why does it matter? Lancet. 2019 Feb 9; 393(10171):560-9.


  1. I'd like to recognize my life-long collaborator (and wife) Dr. Joanna M. Heal MBBS, MRCP, whose career began in the UK in the 1960s when very few women were in academic medicine. She spent most of her career in the American Red Cross, and held many years of research funding for what we think of as amongst our most important efforts, the redefinition of the importance of the ABO blood group system in transfusion safety. Another woman who played an important role in this research and both our careers is Debra Masel, MT(ASCP) SBB, currently chief supervisor of the transfusion service and blood bank at Strong Memorial Hospital of the University of Rochester. She has worked with one or the other (or both) of us for close to 40 years.

    Recently I received a life-time achievement award that spiritually should be shared with at least these two accomplished women. However, one of the conditions of the award was being the principal investigator on a NBF (AABB) grant, which happened to be me. This award should be considered shared with Dr. Heal and Ms. Masel, the two most important women in my life other than my mother, who was not a blood banker :). Some of the work is described here:

    1. Always appreciate your comments, Neil. Many thanks for celebrating the contributions of the two woman who significantly contributed to your 2019 induction into the National Blood Foundation's Hall of Fame. [Added the link to your induction.]
      Cheers, Pat

  2. By the way, this song is one of my favorites, and reminds me of my late mother, who died about the time the song was made famous in the late 1990s. Thanks for the reminder

    1. Glad to hear it. As the French say,'De rien, c'est mon plaisir.'

      Tidbit: One of my dear pals played this McLachlan song at the funeral service of her spouse. "I will remember you" blog I wrote about her for CSTM.

  3. Some Dr. Heal's ideas are recounted in a recent opinion piece we wrote with collaborators for a surgical news journal. Beware that seriously contrarian ideas are rife in this opinion piece. :)

    1. Contarian views always welcome. If all adhered to orthodox views, all scientific, medical, political, social progress would cease.

      Your oped in The Surgeon's Lounge.

  4. Anonymous9:21 AM

    Hi Pat,
    Canadian Blood Services did have a woman as their first CEO (I was still with the Canadian Red Cross during this transition and worked at CBS for 4 years). It was Lynda Cranston: I believe Dr. Graham Sher was VP during this time.
    Denise Evanovitch

  5. Thanks, Denise. Now that you mention it, I do recall Lynda Cranston, as in the CBS story timeline.

    As you know, I was 13 yrs at Canadian Red Cross,prior to Med Lab Science educator, and worked as a consultant for CBS in many capacities, including a brief stint full-time as 'assman'.

    Can. Red Cross & CBS benefited from so many exceptional, dedicated medical laboratory technologists. Many are still pals who keep in touch after decades, including you, my friend.