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‘Real problem’

Doctor writes personal account of the sexist culture pervading medical schools

By WITW Staff on October 5, 2016

As a third-year medical student, Allyson Herbst said she was asked by a resident physician whether she “[liked] vagina” in a discussion over possible areas of specialization — internal medicine and obstetrics/gynecology among them. “Later that week,” Herbst wrote for The Washington Post, “he told me, ‘You’re not wearing makeup today. Maybe you should rethink that choice.”

Herbst, now a resident physician of internal medicine at Emory University, said that her experience as a young medical student was sadly typical. In surgery rooms, she added, it was even worse. “While sexual banter during surgery may seem mostly harmless, the extent and frequency of it, and the aggression towards woman it communicates is a real problem,” Herbst wrote.

Backing her claims, and her experience, are some concerning numbers. According to recent studies, between 30 and 70 percent of female med-school faculty report having endured discrimination due to their gender. And while men nationally commit suicide at four times the rate of women, female physicians kill themselves at the same rate as their male colleagues.

Only one percent of surgical department chairs at U.S. medical schools are women, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Only 22 percent are full-time professors. And even in OB-GYN, where 83 percent of residents entering the field are women, women make up only 22 percent percent of OB-GYN department chairs.

The disparity in advancement between men and women extends to salary. According to a study of some of the most prominent medical schools, a female full professor could expect to make the same salary as a male associate professor. Whether one is a student, a doctor, or faculty, Herbst noted, women at medical schools should expect to encounter gender-related adversity.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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