MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Julie R. Boiko, MD, MS
Resident Physician, PGY1
Department of Pediatrics
University of California, San Francisco
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Grand rounds is an over 100-year-old tradition in US medical school clinical departments of recurring, expert-delivered lectures to update physicians and physicians-in-training on recent advances in relevant medicine. We wanted to determine whether gender representation of speakers at grand rounds aligns with the gender distribution of people typically represented in grand rounds audiences — faculty, residents, and medical students — by clinical specialty according to national academic medical trainee and workforce statistics.
We chose to focus on grand rounds speakers as visible representations of women in academic medicine. This is important because, despite women and men entering medicine at comparable rates, women are much more likely to depart academic medical careers. As current and recent medical students, we considered that consistent exposure to successful female role models in grand rounds speaking venues may positively reinforce women trainees’ desires to continue in academic medical careers.
We found that the people at the podiums do not resemble the people in the audience. Only 26% of grand rounds speakers are women. Even accounting that some clinical specialties contain few women faculty and residents, grand rounds speakers in most specialties we studied were statistically less likely to be women as compared to faculty and residents. Across the specialties, grand rounds speakers are 44% less likely than medical students, 39% less likely than residents, and 21% less likely than faculty to be women.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Grand rounds shows audiences — including impressionable trainees considering academic medical careers — weekly or monthly visible examples of “this is what a leader looks like.” Seeing people from one’s own demographic holding influential positions is powerful in shaping a person’s concept of her or his own future in a field. This underrepresentation of women at the grand rounds podium may quietly dissuade female trainees from pursuing academic medical careers.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: It will be important to identify the specific factors associated with having greater gender balance on grand rounds speaker rosters, and then most vital to advocate for medical schools to employ evidence-based measures to recruit more female speakers. We also consider that this work and its implications could be applied to other demographic groups underrepresented in academic medicine, where having visible role models in venues such as grand rounds may improve retention on the academic medical career pipeline.
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