School of Medicine

Achieving gender equity in medicine

Image: Matt Miller/Sara Moser (WUSM)

Fifteen years ago, Lilianna “Lila” Solnica-Krezel, PhD, interviewed to lead a new Department of Developmental Biology, a reinvention of the WUSM Department of Pharmacology. She remembers thinking, on her flight home, that she had met 30 leaders and only two were women. But clearly the school was poised for change, and, in 2010, she made history, becoming the school’s first female department head.

In early meetings with the department faculty, Solnica-Krezel sensed how much support and autonomy she would have. “On some issues, we want to be democratic. On others, we want you to listen,” they told her, “but then we would like you to make a decision.” And so she began, engaging everyone in a democratic way, then charting a course. WUSM now has one of the most respected developmental biology departments in the nation.

Just 13 years ago, it was rare for a woman to become a full professor at a medical school, let alone hold an endowed professorship or chair a department. As the Adolphus Busch Professor of Medicine and chair of the Department of Medicine, Victoria J. Fraser, MD, also has done all three. And she has watched the medical school’s total percentage of women faculty grow higher every year.

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