Relatively Few Women Physicians Choose Cardiology as Career

Pamela S. Douglas, MD, MACC, FASE, FAHA Ursula Geller Professor of Research in Cardiovascular Disease Duke University School of Medicine

Dr. Douglas Interview with:
Pamela S. Douglas, MD, MACC, FASE, FAHA

Ursula Geller Professor of Research in Cardiovascular Disease
Duke University School of Medicine

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Douglas: The impetus for our study was the concern that cardiology as a profession might be enhanced by greater diversity. By not attracting women in larger numbers (9% of FACCs are female), our fellowships have incomplete access to the talent pool of outstanding residents, and we do not have a diverse group of clinicians to care for our increasingly diverse patient population, or of researchers to explore potentially important health care disparities.

Our findings were twofold: first, job descriptions for men and women cardiologists are dramatically different. Men are much more likely to do invasive procedures while women are more likely to see patients and perform imaging/noninvasive tests.  While there were slightly more women working part time than men this was still rare, and the difference in number of days worked was just 6, across an entire year.

The second finding was that there was a significant difference in compensation. Unadjusted, this was over $110, 000 per year; after very robust adjustment using over 100  personal, practice, job description and productivity measures, the difference was $37, 000 per year, or over a million dollars across a career. A separate independent economic analysis of wage differentials yield a similar difference of $32,000 per year.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Douglas: Much research has shown that our culture tends towards unconscious biases which can create barriers to women’s’ careers. How this plays out in individual institutions can vary, and each may therefore have a different approach.  What is important is the recognitions that, in spite of all good intentions, there can still be a problem that handicaps cardiology as a profession and as work force.  Ghandi is often quoted as saying: ‘Be the change that you want to see in the world’. That’s a great message for those who want to address this problem.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Douglas: Institutions, employers and professional societies should examine their our data regarding women, including but not limited to compensation, leadership positions, and so on, be sure that there are no unintended disparities, and if there are, fix them. Research that provides direction and best practices in how to do this would be incredibly helpful and potentially have a powerful impact across our profession.


Abstract presented at the 2015 American Heart Association meeting
Major differences in job characteristics and pay persist between men and women who treat heart patients

Jagsi R, Biga C, Poppas A, et al. Work Activities and Compensation of Male and Female Cardiologists. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015;():. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2015.10.038.

Pamela S. Douglas, MD, MACC (2015). Few Women Physicians Choose Cardiology as Career 

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