Women in Medicine and Medical Leadership | Dr. Maria Kang

In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, Medical and Academic Affairs is profiling some of the women in medicine and medical leadership positions that help deliver excellent health care and lead our organization. Dr. Maria Kang is a Victoria pediatrician and Medical Director in Pediatrics. Originally from Winnipeg, Dr. Kang has been practicing in Victoria since 2008. Learn more about what drew her to medicine and her experience as a woman in medicine.

What do you love about practicing medicine?

“It is a privilege to be intimately involved in a family’s life as a physician. Although it is so difficult to meet someone at the most vulnerable time in their life, it is also gratifying to be present with them and to help in any way I can. I like the challenge that medicine provides me and how diverse health care is.”

Why did you choose your field of speciality?

“I find that pediatrics is a field that promotes positivity, hopefulness and a holistic view of a child and their family. Early in my training, it was clear to me that most of the pediatricians I met were genuine, supportive and seemed satisfied with their careers.”

“Growing up in Winnipeg, my own pediatrician was an important mentor in my life. He also sponsored my family’s immigration from Korea in the early 1970’s. He and his family’s role in my childhood made a long-lasting impression on me that I am grateful for.”

What experiences have you had as a woman in medicine?

“As a woman in medicine, and especially as a visible minority, I am acutely aware of many stereotypes that unfortunately continue to exist. People assume I am too young to be a physician, not qualified enough, don’t work full-time, or that I am not interested in leadership roles. When I am teaching a younger male medical student learner, patients will frequently only speak to the male student and ignore me. But I am at a point in my career where I am better able to have those difficult conversations to address the stereotypes when I encounter them.”

“I see so much great leadership potential among my female physician colleagues but am frustrated that many feel excluded from these positions. Island Health is a bit better than other places but further up the chain there are fewer women in medical leadership positions. I am hopeful that attitudes are changing.”

“An issue that is not limited to women but should be improved is physician parental leave. Doctors of BC offer a small stipend but there’s no platform to discuss parental leave within each department. This contributes to the stigma of taking leave. Coverage is not as much of an issue in pediatrics, but it can be in other specialties.” 

“I am very fortunate to have outstanding pediatrics colleagues and be part of a clinic that is focused on maternity and pediatric care. I have sought out environments that are supportive of women in general and I think this has allowed me to grow professionally and personally.

What are your professional interests and notable achievements?

“I am interested in physician wellness and advocacy. I have been involved in the Physician Wellness Group supported through the South Island Facility Engagement Initiative. I call it the ‘Fun Committee’. I think it is important for physicians to collaborate and be supportive of one another. It is essential for our individual sense of well-being but also so important for our own families, our patients and the endurance of our careers.” 

“I also involved in a grassroots group to support female physicians in leadership roles here in the South Island. As well, I am a member of CWIM (Canadian Women In Medicine) which is a relatively new not-for-profit organization that grew out of the tragedy of Dr. Elana Fric. Dr. Fric was a family physician in Ontario who lost her life at the hand of her physician spouse. My experience with CWIM has been inspiring and joyous to be a part of. This year’s conference in June will be held in Victoria and we are all so excited to be a part of this innovative group.”

Where did you complete medical school and residency?

“I completed medical school at the University of Manitoba then my residency at the University of Calgary and UBC. My husband and I intended to live in Vancouver but found it too big and crowded. I spent my senior year practicing in Victoria and decided to try out the community.”

What hobbies or activities do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

“I love listening to podcasts while I complete other tasks. Somebody Knows Something is a CBC true crime podcast that’s very interesting. Other podcasts currently on my playlist are This American Life and the LA Times’ Chasing Cosby podcast.”

What was the last book you read?

“I recently read Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming. It’s an interesting book and provides a nice perspective on her life. I’ve got tickets to see her in Victoria later this month!”

What would you be doing if you weren’t a physician?

“This changes on a daily basis, but these days I would love to be a journalist. I would love to spend more time taking a deep dive into a personal story, understanding different perspectives and broadening my own knowledge.”