Letters to the Editor: It isn’t just racism. Gender discrimination thrives in medicine

 A dentist cleans a patient's teeth.
A reader says gender discrimination was rampant in dentistry when she was training to become an oral surgeon. Above, a dentist cleans a patient’s teeth.
(William DeShazer / For The Times)

To the editor: Dr. Pauline W. Chen, a surgeon, says that she is discriminated against in her field because she is Asian. Based on my experience, I think a potentially huge component of how she has been treated is gender. For women from minority groups, discrimination may well be worse than it is for white women.

I am a white woman. I attended UCLA dental school in the late 1970s. At that time, less than 3% of all dentists were women. I wanted to go into oral surgery, but I was told that women were not taken into the surgery specialty.

I endured daily remarks. When I entered the operatory, patients would often ask when the doctor was coming. When I took over the practice of a retiring older white male, many people left or told me they were not convinced a woman could do the job.


Surgery specialties tend to still be dominated by males. My daughter, who is in a six-year oral and maxillofacial surgery residency, is often mistakenly identified as a nurse or assistant as she stands alongside her male colleagues.

Gender discrimination remains rampant in our society. I thought I was going to be the change generation, but I am hopeful that my daughter will see the end of this.

Susan Fredericks-Ploussard, Woodland Hills


To the editor: In reading Dr. Chen’s article, I was reminded of an incident that occurred several years ago as I was being prepped for a surgical procedure at a Los Angeles area hospital.

I was wheeled into the operating room and the nurse started the initial steps for the procedure. When one of the physicians arrived in the room, I heard the nurse greet him by mocking his Asian name. I was both stunned and embarrassed by the nurse’s unprofessional behavior.

I couldn’t help but wonder how often this highly trained physician had been subjected to similar comments.

Thomas Batsis, Sun Valley