Women Have Grit: Taking it on the road and bringing it back

It began with discussions at book club: the burnout of women in the medical field, disparity in diversity and inclusion, gender parity and the proverbial “glass ceiling.” These issues became a recurring theme with the book club—then they decided to do something about it.

“They” are Anjali Bhagra, M.D. and Susan Moeschler, M.D. The “something” developed into the GRIT for Women in Medicine: Growth, Resilience, Inspiration, and Tenacity conference, the weekend of September 20-22 at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe in Truckee, California. According to the two organizers, the conference was conceived three years ago and took 18 months to plan.  


 “There has been an overwhelming response,” said Dr. Bhagra. “We had to limit the numbers due to the size of the facility.” Selling out at approximately 300, is a strong message that let organizers know they had hit a nerve in the medical community. The target audience is broad according to organizers: professional women and men in health care who are interested in developing a gender-balanced leadership that is representative of patient population and society.


Some of the 48 speakers are from Mayo Clinic but others are from across the country. The conference is an opportunity to share problems but more importantly, solutions, policies and procedures, both on a professional and personal level. Subjects range from retention and fatigue effect on patient experience, to compliance and outcomes. Additional issues include maternity and parental leave, co-worker support, education and the dramatic changes in communication. 

“Attendees will discover the benefits of social media for women in the medical field including networking, mentoring, collaboration and career advancement. Attendees will also learn about the potential pitfalls and limitations of using social media,” says Dr. Susan Pitt, one of the presenters.

Presentations are relevant and up-to-date with medical issues but also diverse topics such as, “How to Lead High Impact Strategic Initiatives that Accelerate Diversity and Inclusion,” “Recruiting and Leading the Next Generation for Success and Diversity,” “Mentoring Women and Navigating Career Changes” and “Re-inventing Self.”

“I am thrilled to be part of GRIT, and excited about interacting with talented, motivated and enthusiastic women! My goal is to be provocative by starting the conversation around women successfully promoting each other and themselves, positively impacting career trajectories, and changing environments. We can no longer wait to be selected, but must be strategic and bold,” comments presenter Amy Williams, M.D. 


Co-organizer Dr. Moeschler says, “The event is a culmination of support from our divisions, departments and many leaders within medicine. This includes physicians, researchers and administrators to promote patient care and work-life integration.”  

Mayo Clinic was very supportive. “Dr. Noseworthy (Dr. John Noseworthy, president and CEO, Mayo Clinic) made a video that proved to be very valuable in our mission of GRIT,” Dr. Bhagra states. “They are looking for ways to mitigate issues in many areas.”

Organizers are very proud of the fact the conference is financially self-supporting. Ticket prices cover the costs. Not only are the format and subjects enticing, but the location provides a great weekend getaway. “We wanted it to be inspiring both physically and mentally,” Dr. Bhagra says. 


The organizers encourage attendees to take awareness back to their community. Identifying issues and brainstorming to discover relevant answers is pertinent in all fields from classroom to office.  

The organizer’s goals upon completion: attendees should be able to demonstrate skills to enhance communication with colleagues and better manage conflict. They will be able to identify symptoms of burnout in themselves and describe strategies to manage symptoms.

During GRIT, words of frustration will be replaced with positive words: empowerment, leadership, rejuvenation and equity.

Work should be a journey Dr. Bhagra believes, “You need to re-evaluate and become empowered. We have to find our own solutions. Change cannot happen if you only ruminate.”


Debi Neville is a freelance writer from Rochester. She enjoys reading, all things theatre and her family.