Women less likely to be academic grand rounds speakers than men

PITTSBURGH, March 6, 2017 – Women are less likely than men to be chosen as speakers during grand rounds, the academic mainstay of expert-delivered lectures used to share patient-care guidelines and cutting-edge research within clinical departments. Those findings by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine were published today in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Despite women comprising 47 percent of medical students, 46 percent of residents and 36 percent of faculty nationwide, only 26 percent of grand rounds speakers were women. Across clinical specialties, grand rounds speakers were 44 percent less likely than medical students, 39 percent less likely than residents, and 21 percent less likely than faculty to be women. Additionally, speakers invited from outside institutions were less likely to be women than those invited to speak at grand rounds from among an institution's own personnel.

"The people at the podiums do not resemble the people in the audience," said Julie Boiko, M.D., M.S., who led the study while a medical student at the Pitt School of Medicine. "While gender representation and equality in medicine has been an important area of student discussion in recent years, this is the first time we have data to support that there may be a gender bias in speaker selection at academic grand rounds."

Data for the JAMA research letter was collected from nine major clinical specialties and 79 medical schools and academic hospitals. In total, researchers analyzed more than 200 grand rounds websites and calendar listings for speaker series, as well as more than 7,000 individual sessions for speaker gender and institutional affiliations.

As follow up to this study, researchers plan to identify specific factors associated with having greater gender balance on grand rounds speaker rosters.

"We were surprised by the consistency of this underrepresentation across most specialties and the discovery that speakers invited from outside a given institution are less likely to be women than speakers invited from within the institution," said Alyce Anderson, coauthor of the study and an M.D./Ph.D. candidate at the Pitt School of Medicine. "With this data, speaker planning committees, departments and institutions can strive for gender representation that approximates that of individual clinical specialties' faculty and/or trainees. Such efforts may have a positive effect on retaining women in the academic medical workforce."

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Boiko currently is a resident physician in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. Additional coauthor Rachael Gordon is an M.D./Ph.D. student at the Pitt School of Medicine.

About the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

As one of the nation's leading academic centers for biomedical research, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine integrates advanced technology with basic science across a broad range of disciplines in a continuous quest to harness the power of new knowledge and improve the human condition. Driven mainly by the School of Medicine and its affiliates, Pitt has ranked among the top 10 recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1998. In rankings recently released by the National Science Foundation, Pitt ranked fifth among all American universities in total federal science and engineering research and development support. Likewise, the School of Medicine is equally committed to advancing the quality and strength of its medical and graduate education programs, for which it is recognized as an innovative leader, and to training highly skilled, compassionate clinicians and creative scientists well-equipped to engage in world-class research. The School of Medicine is the academic partner of UPMC, which has collaborated with the University to raise the standard of medical excellence in Pittsburgh and to position health care as a driving force behind the region's economy. For more information about the School of Medicine, see http://www.medschool.pitt.edu.

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