Dolly Abraham, M.D., MBA, SFHM, aspired to become a physician while in first grade in India. It’s been a rewarding career, she says, but not without its challenges.
“It hasn’t been easy bringing up three kids while working as a physician in a leadership role,” Dr. Abraham said. “This field requires women to take time away from their families, which is why some women choose not to pursue a leadership career in medicine.”
Dr. Abraham earned her medical degree from Kasturba Medical College at Mangalore University in Manipal, India, before completing a residency in Internal Medicine at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Livingston, NJ, where she was chief resident. In 2003, she became the medical center’s director of hospital medicine and now serves as the system director of hospital medicine for the entire RWJBarnabas Health system. Dr. Abraham is also the regional medical director of Envision Physician Services’ Northeast Operating Unit. She is a senior fellow of the Society of Hospital Medicine and a member of the American Association of Physician Leaders.
During medical school, Dr. Abraham participated in clinical outreach efforts in rural India, which is work she would like to pursue again in the future. Providing excellent care, she believes, means supporting and communicating with all members of the care team — physicians, nurses, patients and their families. “We are privileged to have the opportunity to care for people when they are sickest,” Dr. Abraham said.
Being a Woman in Medicine
Women, she said, are uniquely qualified for leadership roles in medicine because they have high emotional intelligence and are usually good at building relationships and inspiring and motivating others.
“You have to be passionate about what you do. That’s the key,” she said. She also encourages her female colleagues to participate in committees and to “be aggressive to let people know who you are.” While committee work often isn’t compensated financially, it could lead to a leadership role.
The local, regional and national events that Envision Physician Services sponsors for female physicians provide opportunities to meet women in a variety of clinical and administrative roles across the country and help encourage those interested in pursuing leadership positions to take the next step.
“I’ve learned a lot along my career journey, and I’m happy to share that advice with other women in medicine,” Dr. Abraham said. “We need to do more to identify, support and encourage women who have the potential to be leaders to pursue that path.”
She thanks Envision’s hospital medicine leadership for supporting her career, including enabling her to attend the Society of Hospital Medicine’s Leadership Academy and providing the time for her to earn a master’s degree in business administration.
“Female physicians are getting the recognition they deserve, and there’s more of an equal playing field now,” Dr. Abraham said, “It’s a good time to be a woman in medicine.”