Time's Up Launches A Health Care Initiative To Address Sexual Harassment In Medicine

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When Time's Up was founded at the beginning of 2018, it aimed to rid the world of workplace sexual harassment, one case at a time. After receiving thousands of requests for help across all different sectors, the organization is starting a concentrated effort to address discrimination in a field where it's particularly egregious. Time's Up Healthcare, which officially launches on Friday, will aim to protect women in medicine from unwanted sexual advances, as InStyle reports.

The news has turned up numerous stories of male medical professionals using their positions to sexually abuse women — disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar comes to mind, but he's far from the only one. While reports of patient abuse have dominated the headlines, the women heading Time's Up Healthcare say women working in the medical field also face sexual harassment and gender discrimination on a regular basis.

“I knew when I became a physician that I was entering a boys club of a certain kind, in the sense that all the levers of power for the most part were controlled by men,” Jane van Dis, MD, Ob/Gyn, Ob Hospitalist, and a steering committee member of Time’s Up Healthcare, told InStyle.

“You want to adapt to the culture and climate, and you want to succeed," van Dis continued. "That means you’re going to ignore the pat on the butt, the hand on the leg, and the comments — so many comments — about one's breasts and sex life, one’s fertility plans, and loss of virginity. It’s like the locker room, but it’s the halls of medicine.”

According to the new organization's website, the genesis of Time's Up Healthcare came when the original Time's Up movement sparked a conversation within the medical industry.

"While women make up over 80% of the healthcare workforce, the decision makers, including hospital leadership, executives and association presidents, are largely men," the website reads. "We continue to work in environments highly tolerant of sexual harassment. We had been gathering in women's groups and social media platforms and saying to each other, 'It's time for change!'"

The central aim of Time's Up Healthcare is "to unify national efforts to bring safety, equity, and dignity to our healthcare workplace," according to its website. The organization will look at sexual harassment in the broadest sense, including any "verbal and nonverbal behaviors" that "convey or enforce the second-class status of women." The organization will also focus on improving the situation for groups who are especially vulnerable to harassment.

From a practical standpoint, though, Time's Up Healthcare will connect with the infrastructure that Time's Up has already built in order to help bring change to the health care field. It will link up with the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, which helps low-income victims of sexual harassment gain access to legal and PR representation. Other parts of the effort will include a push to get major health care organizations on board and to raise awareness.

"Safe. Equitable. Healthcare. ⁦@TIMESUPHC⁩, I and a whole lotta others are taking on Sexual Abuse and Discrimination of all types," said Sharonne Hayes, a cardiologist and director of diversity and inclusion at the Mayo Clinic, in a Thursday tweet. "Our differences are our strengths, not our weaknesses. Join us!! Tick-tock. #TimesUp."