20 May Female physicians Disproportionality Affected by Infertility Compared to General Population
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Kathryn S. Smith, BS
M.D. Candidate, Class of 2023
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study
Response: There are studies that show women in medicine do not achieve promotion at the same rate as men and that only a minority of women are in the upper levels of leadership such as Department Chairs and Medical School Deans.
Since peak fertility coincides with peak career building years, we wanted to explore themes related to career advancement, physician burnout and ultimately whether women were being held back from their potential by the burden of fertility, family building, childcare, and household responsibilities.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: Interviews with female physicians in our study showed that many women obtained information regarding fertility from peers and mentors and that formal education on the matter is lacking. Furthermore, there was a perceived lack of workplace support of childbearing from administration and peers. Additionally, a survey found that over 40% of physicians in this study had been personally affected by infertility, many delayed childbearing, and most felt they had to make alterations to their career to accommodate family building.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Female physicians are disproportionality affected by infertility compared to the general population. Current medical education inadequately addresses these topics and current institutional policies do not do enough to support physicians in childbearing and parenting. Systemic and cultural changes are needed to tackle these issues, including, but not limited to, improving parental leave policies, increasing flexibility in medical training, and expanding health benefits for medical trainees and faculty (e.g. insurance coverage to include fertility preservation and infertility treatment).
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: Our team has developed a large-scale national survey to better characterize the unique fertility needs of female physicians. We hope to examine how level of medical training, practice setting, and choice of medical specialties affect fertility and family building experiences. Recruitment is now open and we are encouraging all female physicians (MD/DO) to participate: tinyurl.com/fertilityandfamilybuilding
Smith KS, Bakkensen JB, Hutchinson AP, et al. Knowledge of Fertility and Perspectives About Family Planning Among Female Physicians. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(5):e2213337. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.13337
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