Virtual Doctor Mom Friends

6%.  That’s how many orthopedic surgeons are women.  6.6%.  or 1/15.  That’s how many orthopedic surgeons in my department are women.  I don’t feel like a unicorn most days.  But some days I do.  Not all of the  6% get me…  take into account that I am a heterosexual married mother who likes to exercise.  In my real day to day life I don’t know many (any?) people that are actually like me.  So the New England Journal of Medicine article about social media and the support provided to women physicians published this month validates my reality:  I have virtual friends!  

I actually have real friends, too.  I am lucky.  I have a group of women (and men) from college who still make me laugh and cry regularly, even though we are scattered across the country.  My medical school friends, my residency friends, my mommy friends.  My siblings, my mother, my tennis friends.  I am not sure why I am so fortunate to have so many enduring and rich relationships.  But I am a unicorn to them too.  

The network of physician mothers is immense on facebook.  Over 60,000 members and growing.  The group is mostly supportive of one another.  But snarkiness rears its ugly head at times.  I have deemed myself unauthorized to participate in this group for fear of annoying fellow doctor moms.  There are a few things I seek in my social media fake friends:  

  1. sarcasm
  2. no judgement of one another
  3. humor, preferably about their husbands/spouses/parters, children, and real life friends and colleagues
  4. more sarcasm

I have found these things in 3 groups.

  1. Peloton Physician Mom’s Group (a subgroup of the at home spinning phenomenon, (
  2. Women in Orthopedics
  3. Women in Medicine Staying Fit and Staying Sane

I did not start group 1 or 2.  I did start group 3.  I wanted to add women nurses, physician’s assistants, psychologists, and my mother who used to be an occupational therapist.

My virtual friends (my husband calls them fake friends)  know when I am proud and when I am ashamed.  When I am scared and when I am tired.  They know when I had an awful night on call, and when I gain 4 pounds.  They know when my children have hilarious fights and when my husband is outsmarted by my 8 year old daughter.  They get my joy when my gorgeous mommy friend is the model for the fancy scrubs I wear.  The fake friends have confided upcoming divorces, cancer diagnoses, miscarriages, and losses of loved ones.  Encouraged one another through depression, through losing patients.  When patients or nurses or partners or administrators deal unfair hands, these groups rant appropriately and advise professionally.  These friends have each other’s back.  Never on any of these pages has anyone ever criticized or been hurtful.  This is a forum of full on amazingness.  

Women Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeons of North America and Europe, taken in Barcelona, 2018

I am grateful to Sasha K. Shillcutt, MD, and Julie K. Silver, MD, for writing about the support system that social medial provides for women physicians, unicorns.  Thank you to The New England Journal of Medicine, arguably the most prestigious journal in academic medicine, for validating the relationships among my virtual friends.  

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