Surgeon Behavior Linked to Patient Outcome in New Study

Women more likely to be dissuaded from surgery careers because of gender, survey shows

Becoming a surgeon is a tough slog: years of school and a lot of long hours are required. 

However, women are more likely than their male peers to feel dissuaded from seeking a career in surgery just because of their gender, a new survey found.

The survey is based on responses from students at Harvard Medical School. It found that similar percentages of male and female students intend on eventually becoming surgeons.

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Across genders, many students reported someone trying to dissuade them from the career move at some point: often because the demands can take a toll on a personal life. 

However, 72.7% of women students report believing the discouragement was tied to their gender, while just 1.5% of male respondents said the same. 

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“Discouragement from faculty at the pre-med and student-level definitely has an impact,” Dr. Susan Pories, the study’s coauthor, told Reuters. “We owe it to medical students to empower them to pursue fields based on their passions, and to patients to have a body of surgeons that reflects population diversity.” 

Women remain underrepresented in medicine as a whole, but the gap in surgery is especially wide. According to the Association of Women Surgeons, females account for about 19% of working surgeons.

“By discouraging individuals, particularly minorities, from entering the field, we do both a disservice,” Pories said. “The reality is women are successful in all surgical specialties (while still) achieving work-life balance.”

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The study’s authors acknowledge while surgical careers certainly come with a number of unique demands, it also comes with prestige and other professional benefits.

“Additional support within the surgical field is needed to mitigate these concerns and support trainees in both their career and familial aspirations,” the report concludes.

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