Throughout history, strong, courageous women have paved the way for gender equality. From Malala Yousafzai to Melinda Gates, women have continued to be pioneers in demanding the simplest of human rights—equality. The same passion can be found in community members all over the Region. This International Women’s Day, we are sharing the stories of strong, empowering females in medicine right here in Northwest Indiana.
Established in the early 1900s, International Women’s Day invites the world to celebrate women’s achievements and continue the journey toward gender quality. Celebrated annually on March 8, the day commemorates the progress women have made while calling for action.
For the last 13 years, Sonali Shukla, M.D., has been achieving her dreams while making a big impact in Northwest Indiana as a pathologist at La Porte Hospital.
“I really enjoy being at La Porte Hospital,” Dr. Shukla said. “After I graduated, this was my first job. Hopefully, I can retire from here. As a woman, I feel I can bring a different perspective to medicine. Women are often quite intuitive and can be empathetic in their careers, and women can be excellent listeners who bring emotional intelligence to the field of medicine.”
In addition to being a respected pathologist, Dr. Shukla serves as the Medical Director and Chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Services. She is the Vice President of the La Porte Hospital Medical Staff and serves on the Board of Trustees for La Porte Hospital.
“It’s so good to see women present on the board of the hospital,” Shukla said. “It is important for women to be represented on the board, and we can make a difference in the future of the hospital. When I first began, I only worked with three or four other women. Now, women in La Porte Hospital are much more prevalent, and I think there’s going to be an even stronger presence in the future.”
Creating gender-balanced equality is a collective responsibility. Women like Dr. Shukla can encourage efforts by supporting other women on their journeys. The balance in the healthcare leadership field has already begun to improve, and Shukla is among those who want to offer support for the next generation.
“We need female leaders,” Shukla said. “As women entering the healthcare field mature, they need mentors and leaders to show them the path and to help them navigate the field. It’s a long journey to become a physician, but in spite of all the challenges, it is a very gratifying job in the end.”
Shukla encourages young women of the Region to chase their dreams and to develop a career that brings them joy and satisfaction.
“I personally enjoy my work a lot,” Dr. Shukla said. “If you spend eight to 10 hours a day in the place where you work, then it should be something that makes you happy.”
Ashley Kirkwood, M.D., is a trusted and beloved physician in obstetrics and gynecology in Northwest Indiana. Employed through the La Porte Physician Network and on staff at La Porte Hospital, Dr. Kirkwood is using her strengths to bring personalized, compassionate, and skilled care to the Region.
“Since half the population is female, we should be represented with at least that many of us in professional positions,” Dr. Kirkwood said. “Female representation in healthcare is particularly important because we can spotlight our unique health concerns.”
Dr. Kirkwood has a passion for helping women, advocating for education and sexual health and wellbeing.
“I love working with teens and young adults because they keep me young,” Kirkwood said. “My goal is to make sure they feel empowered to take control of their own health. Education about contraception, STD prevention, and reproductive health can help them achieve their life goals, and it's my job to create a safe place to discuss their bodies.”
In a world where gender inequality still exists in many professions, it can be intimidating for young women to begin their journey toward a career in a male-dominated field. As a female professional, Dr. Kirkwood offers her advice to young women of the Region.
“Don't be intimidated! Your perspective may differ from a man in the same position, but it's just as valid. There can be many ways to solve the same problem,” Kirkwood said. “Female gender stereotypes can hold young women back from pursuing their dreams when it doesn't conform, and it's great to see more and more women are breaking those boundaries.”
This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the accomplishments of the remarkable female physicians at La Porte Hospital. Dr. Shukla and Dr. Kirkwood are among countless women in the Region who are helping to establish balance in the healthcare field.
To learn more about International Women’s Day, please visit https://www.internationalwomensday.com/.
To learn more about La Porte Hospital, please visit https://www.laportehealth.com.