New residency class at Lee Health consists solely of women for first time

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
A woman resident at Lee Health. Credit: WINK News

For the first time, there are more women than men enrolled in U.S. medical schools, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, and Florida is trending that way: The eight doctors in the newest class of Lee Health’s residency program are all women.

Lee Health says it doesn’t base its decisions off of race or gender, but rather focuses on qualifications, looking at applicants’ academics and extracurriculars before narrowing down to whom they want to interview as a potential good match for the program. The students also do the same thing, then they rank each other.

Dr. Alfred Gitu, the director of the family medicine residency program, told said that out of the 1,500 applicants, the strongest ones for this class were women. Medicine has traditionally been a male-dominated field, and it largely still is, but experts say that’s going to change or at least become more balanced. According to a study by Athena Health, 80% of doctors who are 65 and older are men, meaning they are nearing retirement. But 60% of doctors who are 35 and younger, those just coming into the field, are women.

“2019 was the first year that there were more medical students who are women than men,” Gitu said. “So, it has been traditionally a male dominated field, as you know, and even now, there are more male doctors than there are female doctors, but the future is… is definitely trending in the direction of more women.”

One of the doctors completing her first year of a three-year residency at Lee Health spoke about what it means to her.

“Now it’s obviously becoming more accepted for women, and we’re taking a lot more of the positions now,” said Francesca Blazekovic. “But in the past, it was a lot tougher for women to get into this field. And kind of watching them go through that and hearing their stories and hearing how they kind of were able to overcome… all of that is really inspiring to me.”

With the new class, there will be 14 women and 10 men as doctors at Lee Health, a strong majority for the first time. In addition, Lee Health has a strong retention rate, where more than half of their residents stay in Southwest Florida, so we’ll be seeing the trends change here for some time.

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