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Viren Kaul, MD

Viren Kaul, MD
Twitter handle @virenkaul

About the blogger: 
Viren Kaul is a Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine Fellow at Mount Sinai School of Medicine / Elmhurst Hospital Center. His research interests include medical education, sepsis and palliative care in the critically ill. His focus in medical education is on simulation based performance improvement and inter-professional education.

Carr, Phyllis L., et al. "Gender Differences in Academic Medicine: Retention, Rank, and Leadership Comparisons From the National Faculty Survey." Academic medicine: journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges (2018).

Link:  https://journals.lww.com/academicmedicine/Abstract/publishahead/Gender_Differences_in_Academic_Medicine__.97997.aspx

Article:  Gender Differences in Academic Medicine: Retention, Rank, and Leadership Comparisons From the National Faculty Survey.

In this NIH funded study, the authors tracked 1,273 faculty members over 17 years. Women were less likely to achieve the rank of professor, continue on in academic medicine and be in senior leadership roles. While, the differences were offset when adjusting for academic productivity in terms of achieving rank and staying in academia, the disparity continued in terms of achieving senior leadership roles. A number of theories have been put out in the past to explain this disparity such as the prevalent “pipeline effect” that alludes to inadequate number of women entering medicine leading to such effects at advanced levels, however, it does not hold water at a time where women are approaching nearly 50% of medical school attendees. As the authors point out, a likely explanation, albeit the more difficult one to accept, is that women face systemic lack of support, leading to lesser academic productivity and downstream effects due to lost time.

Why this article:
2017 was, in a number of ways, a landmark year for women’s rights. With the #MeToo, #TimesUp and #WomenInMedicine movements growing in voice, reach and effect, this timely study provides insight into how things have evolved for women in academic medicine over 17 years. This is the longest follow up period for such a study. Most studies in this field tend be specialty specific, or a snap shot analysis, making them not truly generalizable or representative. The one factor that nullified differences between men and women reaching rank and staying in academia was academic productivity. Women bear a majority of the burden from maternity and family commitments and it is pertinent to examine if institutions allow women to carry these important functions out without penalizing them in a manner that places them at permanent disadvantage to their male colleagues. Can they ever make up for the lost time and resultant loss of academic productivity? Another aspect of concern is the differences in women physician’s professional experiences as opposed to men, with increasing data showing disparity in kind of referral cases, perception of leadership style, and unequal weightage given to being clinical educators (that women physicians have been shown to be more involved in rather than research) as opposed to researchers. Even when women reach leadership positions, they are not allowed a level playing field. The authors point out that interventions that address these damaging and inescapable stereotypes have been shown to have long lasting positive effects on women physicians’ career. This long overdue systemic overhaul starts with recognizing biases, increasing awareness and changing the culture.