Learning when to say no is important for work-life balance.

Best Practices

When to Say No: Women in Endoscopy and Work-Life Balance

“Remember, the decisions you make today are informed by where you want to go.”

For recent fellowship graduates or gastroenterologists still gaining their sea legs in the profession, Dr. Meena B. Bansal has one message: It’s OK to say no.

“Doing a bad job after saying yes is far worse than never saying yes in the beginning,” she said. “The reality is you will be measured by the end product, not whether or not you decided to say yes or no.”

Bansal, professor of medicine in the Division of Liver Diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, recently presented during the women’s coalition symposium during Digestive Disease Week 2021. Bansal also serves as the secretary for the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD).

Women make up about 18 percent of gastroenterologists, according to the latest data from the Association of American Medical Colleges.  

Bansal said her hope was that new physicians — women especially — can keep their priorities straight and not get sidetracked by new opportunities or pressure to be a team player. All additional responsibilities to clinical work — research, leadership, committees, etc. — need to align with career goals, she added.  

It is important to remember that careers are a marathon, not a sprint. Bansal encouraged young professionals to think about where they want to be in 10 years or more and focus on the jobs, research opportunities, leadership roles that will help them get there.

Not every new opportunity is a good one. Some may even derail future dreams, she said.

Bansal highlighted several ideas she hoped young physicians would keep in mind as they choose new opportunities:

  • Saying no doesn’t mean you are high maintenance.
  • You don’t need permission to say no.
  • Saying no doesn’t diminish your value as a team member.
  • Performance, more than whether you accepted an opportunity, is the final measure of success.

It’s important to thoughtfully consider every request, as “offers will always come along,” Bansal said. But some reasons for saying no might include deciding that the opportunity does not align with your priorities, or simply that the timing is not right given external personal factors.

Once you do say yes, go and make an impact, Basal encouraged. Be visible on that committee or research team; use every chosen opportunity to make a mark and move one step closer toward your goals.

“Always be thoughtful before making any decision,” Bansal said. “Remember, the decisions you make today are informed by where you want to go.”

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