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Examining Attitudes Toward Pregnancy & Childbearing in Women Surgeons

The number of women applicants to medical school has increased steadily over the past few decades, rising to 50.8% of all American medical school applicants in 2003 to 2004. Despite this increase, women have historically been underrepresented across some medical fields when compared with men. Studies indicate that academic faculty women comprise a large percentage of primary care specialties, but only about 15% of faculty in general surgery are women. Data from 2008 demonstrated that women represented just 32.3% of residents in general surgery. While the number of women medical students pursuing a career in surgery has increased steadily since 1997, there are still disproportionately fewer women than men pursuing general surgery and surgical subspecialties. “Many factors may deter women from careers in surgery,” explains Patricia L. Turner, MD, FACS. “One potential concern is accommodating pregnancy and childbirth during training and practice. That’s because medical school and training typically occurs during the years when women are most fertile. The demands associated with the longer length of training in surgery and persistent negative attitudes toward pregnancy from colleagues may dissuade students from choosing surgery as a career.” Taking a Deeper Look at Surgeons & Pregnancy To further explore female surgeon experiences relating to childbirth and pregnancy, Dr. Turner and colleagues conducted a survey of women general surgeons in training and in practice that was published in the February 20, 2012 Archives of Surgery. The survey questionnaire aimed to provide descriptive data on the timing of pregnancy and perceptions of stigma. Data were collected according to the date of medical school graduation for respondents: 0 to 9 years since graduation. 10...

Pregnancy Among Women Surgeons

A paper reporting the results of a survey of women surgeons on the topic of pregnancy appears in Archives of Surgery online ahead of print. Responses were received from 1,937 female surgeons — 49.6% of those who were sent surveys. Not surprisingly, the findings were that women surgeons feel stigmatized about pregnancy during surgical residency training. Things are improving, but slowly. The percentage of women reporting that pregnancy during training is stigmatized fell from 76% for women who graduated more than 30 years ago, all the way down to 67% for women who graduated less than 10 years ago. The difference was statistically significant [p = 0.001] but hardly significant in the real world. At this rate, pregnancy among female surgical residents should be no longer stigmatized by about the year 2127. According to Table 3 of the paper, the cumulative rate of pregnancy of female surgery residents who graduated fewer than 30 years ago is 32.2%. To put it another way, 1/3 of all female surgery residents became pregnant at least once during their five years of training. The most interesting finding was that even women faculty and women residents were perceived as having a negative influence on women surgeons contemplating childbearing, and this negativity has not abated over the years. Meanwhile, the percentage of both residents who are women and those who become pregnant is increasing. Male residents can get sick or be injured and miss time. Should there be any reason to deal with pregnancy differently? What do you think about this? Skeptical Scalpel is a practicing surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency...
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