20 Jul Female Physicians Remain Hard to Retain in Academic Medicine
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Cassandra Kelleher, MD
Surgical Director, Fetal Care Program
Surgical Director, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Physician Investigator (Cl)
Surgery, Mass General Research Institute
Associate Professor of Surgery
Harvard Medical School
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Physicians practicing in academic hospitals have unique responsibilities. They are not only expected to treat patients, but also to conduct research to improve treatments for future patients, and to train future physicians.
Diverse healthcare teams have better patient outcomes and lower healthcare costs. Women physicians, for example, are more likely to practice patient-centered care, and through their teaching and research work at academic medical centers, they help to disseminate and normalize novel approaches to practicing medicine. For these reasons, gender diversity in academic medicine is important for the quality of healthcare in the future.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: Over a five-year study period, the overall attrition rate was 38.3% for female physicians compared to 32.4% for male physicians. Female physicians had higher rates of attrition across every career stage: 40.5% female vs 34.8% male among junior career physicians (less than 15 years of experience), 36.4%. vs 30.3% among mid-career physicians (15-29 years of experience), and 38.5% vs. 33.3% among advanced-career physicians (30+ years of experience) showing that women leave academia more frequently across all life stages, not just childrearing.
Therefore, there are other reasons aside from motherhood that contribute to attrition for female physicians.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Despite equal numbers of women and men graduating from medical school, the higher attrition rate from academia for women ultimately means decreasing representation of women in the academic workforce. This is worrisome because diversity on healthcare teams is important for innovation and cost containment. Further, with the physician shortage projected to reach 124,000 physicians by 2034, interventions to retain physicians—especially female physicians—are crucially needed.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a results of this study?
Response: Our future research focus includes identifying new ways to retain female physicians in the academic healthcare workforce and conducting further resources into the drivers of attrition for female physicians.
Chen Y, Orlas C, Kim T, Chang DC, Kelleher CM. Workforce Attrition Among Male and Female Physicians Working in US Academic Hospitals, 2014-2019. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;6(7):e2323872. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.23872
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